Take Your Pick
Anaheim, CA
The Happiest Place on Earth
Disneyland Park - Disneyland Park, "The Happiest Place on Earth" is California's number one attraction and the nation's number two theme park by attendance (lead only by big brother Disney World Magic Kingdom in Orlando). The adventure starts as soon as you walk onto Main Street USA. Here, Mickey and Minnie great you as you make your way towards Fantasyland, Adventureland, Frontierland, Tomorrowland, Mickey's Toontown, Critter County and New Orleans Square. From the swashbuckling of the Pirates of the Caribbean to the quirky It's a Small World, Disney works its magic. After an exciting day at Disneyland, head next door to Disney's California Adventure for even more fun. This California themed park lets visitor experience all of California, from the Golden Gate Bridge to Hollywood - all in one location.
Avalon, CA
Avalon on Catalina Island
Santa Catalina Island - Located a scant 22 miles off the coast of California, and seemingly a million miles from the big city of Los Angeles, is the tranquil and relaxing Santa Catalina Island. Catch a ferry to the island's port city of Avalon, then lay on the beach, snorkel, SCUBA dive or catch a glass bottom boat to the island's nearby shipwrecks. Here the pace slows way down, with the preferred modes of transportation being by foot, by bike, and by golf cart. Cute restaurants and shops line the harbor and lead down to the iconic Sugarloaf Casino. Other attractions include the Wrigley Memorial & Botanical Gardens, Lover's Cove Undersea Gardens and the Catalina Island Museum.
Berkeley, CA
The UC Berkeley Campanile Esplanade
University of California Berkeley - Yes, the University of California Berkeley is sometimes called "Berzerkeley" for its left-leaning academia and counter-culture student body, but they also produce some heavyweight sci-fi physicists. In November 2010 Berkeley physicists trapped antimatter atoms, which had only been theoretically proven in the past (Star Trek fans know that matter/antimatter engines will power the USS Enterprise). "Beam me up". Now, if just visiting the campus rather than looking for antimatter, be sure to head to the top of the 307 foot tall Campanile (Sather Tower), for a grand view of the Bay Area.
Big Sur, CA
Breathtaking Big Sur
California Coastline - Usually when someone talks about "Big Sur", they are referring to the 100 miles of breathtaking California Coastline between Monterey and Cambria, not just the town of Big Sur. Now, the town of Big Sur is included in those 100 miles of Highway 1 (Pacific Coast Highway), but just work with me. The best way to explore this unspoiled beauty is by motorcycle or convertible making frequent stops for hikes and photos. Must sees are the Point Sur Lighthouse, the Bixby Creek Bridge, the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and Jade Cove.
Chico, CA
The Home of Big Yo
National Yo-Yo Museum - Filled with a great selection of toys, novelties, clothing, and gifts, the Chico original store "Bird in Hand" has a big surprise in the back - the world's largest working yo-yo. The 50 inch, 256 lb yo-yo entitled "Big Yo" is a 1982 Guinness Book of World Records holder and is part of the National Yo-Yo Museum within the store. The Yo-Yo Museum has hundreds of world class yo-yos, including antiques from the 1920s and past competition winners. Chico is also the site of the National Yo-Yo Contest held each October, which is the longest running National Championship.
Cholame, CA
James Dean Memorial
James Dean Crash Site - James Dean (1931-1955), famous for acting roles in "Rebel without a Cause" and "East of Eden" was also a part-time road racer. He just purchased a new Porsche 550 Spyder for an upcoming race and showed it to fellow actor Alec Guinness who exclaimed, "if you get in that car, you will be found dead in it by this time next week". A week later while driving west down State Route 46, Dean's car was hit nearly head-on by Donald Turnupseed who swerved into his lane. The rising star died within minutes of the accident. The crash site is at the intersection of State Route 46 and 41 and a memorial is set up at the Jack Ranch Cafe just west of there.
Coloma, CA
California Gold Rush
Sutter's Mill - On January 24, 1848, James Marshall (1810-1885) while working at a saw mill owned by John Sutter (1803-1880) in Coloma, discovered gold on the South Fork American River. Although the men hoped to keep their discovery a secret, word spread fast and soon hundreds of thousands of treasure hunters "49ers" were seeking their fortunes in California. On the site today, is a reconstructed "Sutter's Mill" and looking down on it from a hill above, is a monument to John Marshall. Interestingly, both Marshall and Sutter died poor, while mining supply dealer Sam Brannan (1819-1899) became California's first millionaire.
Coronado, CA
The Hotel Del
Hotel del Coronado - The Hotel del Coronado combines fives star luxury with a classic seaside resort. The 1888 Victorian hotel, sometimes called "hotel del" and "the del" has a has a distinctive red-turreted gabled roof atop luminescent white-washed wooden walls. The National Historic Landmark has seen its share of Presidents, movie stars and Hollywood power brokers throughout the years. It has also been the setting for many films such as "Some Like it Hot", starring Marilyn Monroe.
Crescent City, CA
Trees Big Enough to Drive Through
Redwood National Park - The top three tallest trees in the world, Hyperion, Helios and Icarus - all towering over 370 feet - are Coastal Redwoods living in the Redwood National Park. Redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) are a fast growing and hardy species that can live over 2,000 years. The area's national and state parks preserve over 100,000 acres of land and trees, which offers visitors plenty of room to drive and hike among these giants. If you want to drive through, instead of drive among the trees, there are plenty of opportunities along Highway 101 to do that too.
Death Valley, CA
Scotty's Castle in Death Valley
Scotty's Castle - Death Valley, which in 1913 recorded a world record 134 degree temperature, is home to Scotty's Castle. This Spanish-style villa is named after Walter Scott (1872-1954) a gregarious con man who proclaimed he owned a gold mine in the valley. He persuaded millionaire Albert Johnson to invest in his gold mine and had a hand in convincing Johnson to build a home there. In 1922 construction on "Scotty's Castle" began. The property is now owned by the US National Park Service which offers two tours of the house; a 50 minute house tour and a 60 minute underground tour.
Hollywood, CA
Some Day You'll See My Star
Walk of Fame - Nearly 2,500 stars, imbedded in the sidewalks around Hollywood and Vine, make up the landmark "Walk of Fame". The pink and brass stars are given for excellence in five categories, film, radio, television, music and theater with some entertainers receiving honors in multiple categories. Maps of the stars are available everywhere, so visitors can find the stars of Marilyn Monroe, Kevin Bacon (who is somehow connected to every film) and John Wayne. This monkey's favorites are Kermit the Frog, Bugs Bunny, Winnie-the-Pooh and Big Bird, in case you were wondering.
Hollywood, CA
Welcome to Hollywood Baby
Hollywood Sign - The 45 foot tall white letters spelling out "H O L L Y W O O D" let you know you've arrived at the entertainment capital of the world. The sign was originally built in 1923 as part of a housing development and read "HOLLYWOODLAND". In 1949 the last four letters were removed. The sign can be seen from miles away, but the best way to see it is up close and personal is by hiking the Hollyridge Trail from Griffith Park. The moderately strenuous 45 minute walk branches off for views in front and just below the sign and above and behind it. Very cool!!!
Kelso, CA
Ice Cream Dessert in the Desert
Mojave National Preserve - The 25,000 square mile Mojave Desert takes up a large portion of southeast California. Some monkeys will say this is "fly-over country", but the desert has a beauty of its own. The Mojave National Preserve contains Mitchell Caverns which has some wonderful underground limestone formations and Kelso Dunes which features 700 foot tall floating sand dunes. While in Kelso (the location of the visitor center) be sure to drop in at the historic Beanery for a little ice cream.
Klamath, CA
Babe and Paul at the Trees of Mystery
Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox - Just after creating the Great Lakes for his ox Babe to drink water out of, Paul Bunyan headed west to California to sink his ax into some redwoods. A 49 foot talking statue of Paul and a 35 foot tall statue of Babe immortalize the duo, and stand outside the popular Trees of Mystery. The Trees of Mystery is a combination nature trail, sky tram (escorting guest 200 feet above the ground and through trees) and kitschy roadside attraction. That is a good combination to this sock monkey.
Long Beach, CA
The Historic Queen Mary
RMS Queen Mary - Sailing the North Atlantic from 1936 to 1967, the RMS Queen Mary was a luxury liner known for its speed and elegance. That speed, which could easily out-run German U-Boats, was utilized during WWII when it served as a troop transport. Today the 81,000 ton, 12 deck cruise ship is permanently docked at Long Beach serving as a museum and hotel. The ship has seven restaurants and lounges, live performances, a variety of tours (including a ghost tour), and plenty of areas to relax. It is just like cruising, but there is no chance of getting seasick.
Los Angeles, CA
Hey, Lend an Elephant a Hand
La Brea Tar Pits - Two things you wouldn't normally think of at the same time are tar pits and high-end shopping, but that's exactly what happens in West Hollywood. The La Brea Tar Pits are an oil pond that has entrapped animals for tens of thousands of years. The perfectly preserved fossils removed from the pits include, saber-tooth cats, mammoths, dire wolves, camels, bison and even one human. Many of these are on display in the George C. Page Museum next to the tar pits. Just down Wilshire Blvd is Beverly Hills' with its famous street - Rodeo Drive and zip code - 90210.
Los Angeles, CA
Tapestries in the Getty Center
Getty Center - Even without the fantastic collection of European and American art, the Getty Center would attract thousands to it 750 acre campus. Set in the foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains, the stunning architecture and world class gardens overlook the glorious California countryside. Then there's the art. Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Gauguin and other greats make up the collection that dates from the 13th to the 19th century. The majority of the works were amassed by oil tycoon J. Paul Getty (1892-1976), who traveled the world in search of objects of the Renaissance period.
Malibu, CA
Imagine the Statue of Liberty Over There
Film Locations - One of the great things about California is that you can drive around the state and find film locations from your favorite movies and TV shows everywhere. Want to see the "Kill Bill:Vol 1" church? Head to Lancaster. Want to see where Captain Kirk battled the Gorn? Drive to Agua Dulce's Vasquez County Park. Of course, if you want to see where the ending scene from the greatest movie of all time was filmed, the 1968 "Planet of the Apes", stop by Westward Beach in Malibu. Most locations are exterior shots and are free to visit (including the Brady Bunch house from the original series).
Monterey, CA
Steinbeck's Cannery Row
John Steinbeck - Monterey, once a thriving fishing port, keeps a link to the past alive with fantastic seafood restaurants and historic sites. The Sardine Factory in Cannery Row is a delicious place to eat and you can work off the meal by visiting historic Colton Hall, (the location of the signing of California's Constitution). Monterey's most famous resident was American author John Steinbeck (1902-1968) whose works include "The Grapes of Wrath" and "East of Eden". Steinbeck fans can printout a "Steinbeck Tour Map" and visit all of the places the author lived and wrote about in his novels.
Napa, CA
Napa Valley Vineyards
Napa Valley - With over 400 wineries and 45,000 acres of vineyards, Napa Valley is one of the world's premier wine destinations. The first grapes planted in the valley were by French priests, Francis Castro and Father Jose Altimura in 1823, and were used in the Holy Communion. Today winery tours, wine tastings and even wine trains are popular attracthions. Beringer Vineyards, established in 1876 is Napa's oldest winery and along with Robert Mondavi and the V. Sattui Winery, is a must see. Wine and non-wine enthusiasts will also enjoy Napa Valley's beautiful architecture and rolling hills.
Palm Springs, CA
Windmills of Palm Springs
Resorts and Windmills - You know you are close to Palm Spring when see the enormous wind turbines just off of I-10. Tours of the wind farms are available or you can head to the top of the 2 1/2 mile Palm Springs Aerial Tramway for a great birds-eye view. Palm Springs itself is the quintessential desert resort town. It is a combination health spa, retirement community, shopping area, winter resort, and outdoor activity destination. Be sure to check out the Oasis Water Resort, the Palm Springs Desert Museum and nearby Indian Canyons.
Represa, CA
Stuck in Folsom Prison
Folsom Prison - This is how big of a monkey head I am. I was walking around the outside of Folsom Prison singing a Johnny Cash tune, looking for a way to get in, and thinking the whole place was a museum. You know, like Alcatraz. Turns out it is still a working prison and there is a small museum next to it. I was wondering why there were signs on the way in stating "No Stopping or Turning on Prison Road - Warden". Anyway, the prison opened in 1880 and Johnny Cash performed live on January 16, 1968 leading off with his song, "Folsom Prison Blues".
Sacramento, CA
The Golden State Capitol Building
State Capitol Building - The neoclassical California State Capitol Building was completed in 1874 and is the third capitol building since California became a state in 1849. The exterior is similar to the nation's capitol, with a 220 foot tall dome and pillared facade. One of the best features of the capitol's interior, in this monkey's mind, is the collection of montage boxes on the walls. Each county in the state has a display case filled with items and images that represent their area. Also inside is a small museum, while the grounds contain a small park and a Vietnam War Memorial.
San Diego, CA
Mom Can I Have the Car Tonight?
San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld - For animal lovers, San Diego has two premier attractions, the San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld. The San Diego Zoo has over 4,000 animals and 800 species, including many rare and endangered animals in its 100 acre facility. See elephants, orangutans, giant pandas and many more. After visiting all the land animals at the zoo, stop in at SeaWorld and say "hi" to the underwater animals. The park features a one million gallon Shamu pool, a Penguin Encounter, and my personal favorite the Rocky Point Preserve with sea otters.
San Diego, CA
Maritime Museum
Waterfront - The Waterfront on San Diego Bay is a seafarers dream. On the north end is the Maritime Museum featuring the world's oldest active ship, the 1863 Star of India, a 1962 B-39 Soviet submarine, and the 1898 steam ship Berkeley (among others). All the ships are open for exploration and give vastly different perspectives into a life at sea. Moving south along the Waterfront are cruise and Navy Piers along with the USS Midway Museum. The USS Midway is the nation's longest serving aircraft carrier and now contains dozens of exhibits and restored military aircraft.
San Diego, CA
Croce's Restaurant in the Gaslamp District
Gaslamp Quarter - The Gaslamp Quarter is the dining, entertainment and shopping center of San Diego. When visiting, opt to stay in one of the grand Victorian hotels in the quarter, and then walk to all the Jazz Clubs and al fresco dining establishments nearby. The 16 block Gaslamp Quarter was the vision of developer Alonzo Horton in the 1870s, he wanted to create a new city center and make a little cash in the process. He did both. Today, some of San Diego's biggest events are held here, including the Taste of Gaslamp, the Mardi Gras Festival, and the St. Patrick's Day Festival.
San Diego, CA
On the Border
Mexican Border - San Diego's close proximity to the Mexican Border makes it the perfect jumping off spot to visit our neighbor's to the south. And the city just across the border is Tijuana. This enormous ciudad has a population of over 5 million people and was once a place where Americans would go for activities illegal in the US such as cockfights and gambling, and for really inexpensive tequila. Today we go more for bargain hunting and slightly less expensive tequila. Please check all travel advisories before heading across the border and be warned, the line coming back to the US can be really long.
San Fernando Valley, CA
The Big Ball at Universal Studios
Universal Studios - Filled with thrill rides, special effects, stunts, and a back-lot studio tour, Universal Studios entertains like a Hollywood action film. What originally started out as a part-time movie studio and a full time chicken farm has grown into the largest working film and television theme park in the world. Don't miss Spiderman Rocks!, Terminator 2:3D, Shrek 4-D and The Mummy Returns - Chamber of Doom. And remember, this is a working film studio, so you may be lucky enough to see an actual film being made.
San Francisco, CA
The Sea Lions of Pier 39
Fisherman's Wharf - Fisherman's Wharf is the top tourist destination in San Francisco. The Wharf features delicious Italian seafood (specializing in Dungeness Crab) in any one of its many restaurants on Pier 39. Pier 39 is also home to a variety of shops and stores as well as a home to dozens of barking sea lions. Other attractions within walking distance are the Aquarium of the Bay, the 210 foot tall Coit Tower located on Telegraph Hill, and the ever popular Cable Cars. Prior to the earthquake of 1906 and the advent of the automobile, more than 600 Cable Cars roamed the streets of San Francisco. Today there are about 40.
San Francisco, CA
The Rock
Alcatraz - Alcatraz Island, also known as "The Rock", served as a military and federal prison from 1907 to 1963. Two of the most famous inmates of Alcatraz were Al Capone (convicted for tax evasion) and George "Machine Gun" Kelly (convicted for kidnapping and extortion). Today the island is operated as part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and attracts nearly 1.5 million visitors a year. Guests arrive via ferry and take self-guided tours of the island and inside the famous former maximum security prison. The prison, considered one of the "most haunted" offers nightly ghost tours. Trivia question: Do you know what Alcatraz means in Spanish? Sock Monkey. Just kidding, it means Pelican.
San Francisco, CA
The Not Gold, Golden Gate Bridge
Golden Gate Bridge - The Golden Gate Bridge has been a symbol of San Francisco since its completion in 1937. Spanning 1.7 miles, this modern marvel when built, was the longest and tallest suspension bridge in the world (it is currently number nine). It took four years to build, cost $35 million, used 80,000 miles of cable, and can withstand winds in excess of 100 mph. The one question every monkey asks is, "why is it called the golden gate, when it is painted orange?" Turns out, the straight the bridge spans has been called the "Golden Gate". since 1844. Still, I would have painted the bridge gold.
San Francisco, CA
Twists and Turns of Lombard St
Lombard Street - Eight shrub-lined cobblestone switchbacks are crammed into a 1/4 mile stretch of Lombard Street on Russian Hill, making this the "Crookedest Street in the World". Built in 1922 in order to make it easier for vehicles and pedestrians to climb the 27% slope, it has gone on to become one of the city's major tourist attractions. It is also the only way to reach another city landmark by automobile, Coit Tower. Little monkeys love this twisting one-way road, and the first thing they say after reaching the bottom is, "let's do it again".
San Jose, CA
38 Uninterrupted Years of Construction
Winchester Mystery House - Sara Winchester (1839-1922), an heir to the massive Winchester Repeating Arms Company was told by a medium that the recent loss of her husband and child were caused by angry spirits who lost their lives to Winchester guns. She was also told that the only way to appease these spirits was to build a house for them and never stop construction. For 38 uninterrupted years the hammers and saws never stopped, and the result is the Winchester Mystery House. It has 160 rooms, over 2,000 doors, 10,000 windows, secret passages, and unexplained oddities. And yes, it's said to be haunted.
San Juan Capistrano, CA
Mission Bell of San Juan Capistrano
San Juan Capistrano - When Gene Autry sang "When the swallows come back to Capistrano", it is here in San Juan Capistrano where they come back to. Every year in October thousands of swallows fly to South and Central America and then in March return to the Mission San Juan Capistrano. The Mission, California's most notable, was founded on Nov 1, 1776 and today is a historic landmark and museum. Various tours of the 10 acre property are available which highlight the historic buildings and beautiful gardens.
San Simeon, CA
Spend the Entire Day Touring
Hearst Castle - Built by millionaire newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst (1863-1951), the palatial Mediterranean-style Hearst Castle is one of California's greatest treasures. Four structures make up the living areas of the estate, three guest-houses (Casa del Sol, Casa del Mar, and Casa del Monte) and the main house Casa Grande. Various tours are offered of the estate featuring the fantastic statue-lined outdoor Neptune Pool, the Italian spa inspired indoor Roman Pool, a 50 seat indoor theater, and detailed carvings and stunning artwork throughout the castle. Evening tours are "living history" experiences with period-dressed actors interacting with guests.
Santa Monica, CA
The End Point of Route 66
Santa Monica Pier - The Santa Monica Pier celebrated its 100th birthday on September 9, 2009 and is as youthful as ever. The pier's main attraction is Pacific Park, an amusement park with a 1920s carousel, wrapped in a twisting rollercoaster. The pier's other highlights include an aquarium, fishing from the pier, an arcade and plenty of street performers. In addition to the rides and entertainment, the Santa Monica Pier is also the terminal point of . "The Mother Road", Route 66. This famous highway, established in 1927, began in Chicago and cut 2,448 miles across the heartland of America to end at blue waters of the Pacific Ocean.
Simi Valley, CA
The Gipper's Presidential Library
Ronald Reagan Presidential Library - The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library is the largest and most impressive of the federally run presidential libraries. Built to honor our 40th President (from 1981-1989), Ronald Wilson Reagan (1911-2004), the nearly quarter million square foot library stands on 100 acres in the hills of Simi Valley. The museum is filled with photographs, campaign posters, a replica of the Oval Office, a miniature movie theater (featuring the "Gipper") and last but not least, the Air Force One Pavilion. Inside this 90,000 square facility is Air Force One, Marine One and several presidential automobiles.
Tres Rios, CA
Tallest Trees in the World
Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park - Located next to each other, Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park when combined encompass nearly one million acres. The highlights of the parks are the Giant Sequoia trees, which can live up to four thousand years and grow to over 300 feet. The largest tree in the world (by volume not height) named "The General Sherman" calls Sequoia National Park home. Camping, hiking and rock climbing are popular activities, but standing in amazement next to these monster trees is the most popular.
Twentynine Palms, CA
These Joshua Trees are Pokey
Joshua Tree National Park - The Joshua Tree isn't just a name of a U2 album, it is an actual tree indigenous to the high deserts of the southwestern USA. Also known as the Yucca brevifolia, it was named the Joshua Tree by the Mormons who saw in the tree the upraised arms Joshua of the Old Testament. The 800,000 acre Joshua Tree National Park preserves where the tree grows, a number of old gold mines and some very unique rock formations. Most of the hiking trails and great rock climbing are in the northwestern portion of the park near Hidden Valley and Jumbo Rocks.
Venice, CA
Where the Governator Worked Out
Venice Beach - Venice, once just a swamp north of LA, was converted to "Venice in America" by millionaire tobacco tycoon Abbot Kinney in 1905. He created a series of canals and imported gondolas from Italy to attract tourists to the area. Today the beach town is known for its popular boardwalk which is lined with street performers, eclectic shops and plenty of free spirits. Venice Beach also has a workout area for pumping iron called "Muscle Beach". This is where action-film star and former Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger did some bodybuilding.
Yorba Linda, CA
Nixon Museum, Library, Home and Cemetery
Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum - Our nation's 37th President (from 1969-1974), Richard Millhouse Nixon (1913-1994) had many great accomplishments; he opened the door to China, thawed relations with the Soviet Union, ended the Vietnam War and was President during the first moon landing. These accomplishments are sometime lost because of the Watergate scandal and his subsequent resignation. The Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum contains the President's birth home, burial site, gifts from heads of state and a replica of the East Wing of the White House. The best artifact in the Museum has to be the cardboard cut-out of Nixon and Elvis shaking hands.
Yosemite National Park, CA
Yosemite Valley
Yosemite National Park - Yosemite National Park is 1,200 square miles of glacier-carved canyons, dramatic cliff walls, wildflower valleys and towering waterfalls. The most popular area of the park is the Yosemite Valley. The valley contains nearly a dozen waterfalls including the 617 foot Bridalveil Fall (the most photographed of the park) and the gorgeous 2,425 foot three-stage Yosemite Falls. Hikers and climbers enjoy hundreds of mile of trails, with popular formations being the 3,000 foot granite monolith El Capitan and the 4,737 foot half dome.