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Things to Do in California - page 2

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Oxbow Public Market
8 Tours and Activities

Whether you’re in the mood to shop, eat or do some wine tasting, Oxbow Public Market has you covered. This indoor marketplace is home to two dozen merchants that feature everything from local and artisan food, to award winning wine and decorative home accessories. It’s loved by tourists and locals alike. While residents may appreciate the butcher shops, and fish market a bit more, it doesn’t matter where you call home, the coffee shop, cupcake counter and distillery will put a smile on your face.

Outdoor seating is available and put to good use on sunny days. The hardest part might be deciding what to eat. Choices include everything from Italian, to Mexican, to American comfort food and an oyster bar. Dessert is just as important. Think organic ice cream, multiple bakeries and locally made chocolate.

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Presidio
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48 Tours and Activities

Once a military base, The Presidio is now a huge public park on the tip of the San Francisco Peninsula. The Spanish established a military fortress on the site in 1776, and it was later turned over to Mexico, and then to the United States in 1848. The original name was the Royal Fortress of Saint Francis, fortress being a translation of “presidio,” and the area remained an active base for military operation until 1995. Since 1996, The Presidio has been a park. It's part of the Golden Gate National Recreational Area, but is operated by a private trust.

Among the many outdoor recreational opportunities within The Presidio are hiking, mountain biking, and golfing. The waters just off the park's beaches are great places to go kite surfing or sailing, not to mention fishing. There's also one camping facility inside the park that's open from April-October, as well as one lodge in a former US Army residence hall.

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Griffith Park
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74 Tours and Activities

One of the largest urban green spaces in the country, Griffith Park is a wonderful playground for all ages and interests. The park embraces an outdoor theater, the city zoo, and observatory, two museums, golf courses, tennis courts, playgrounds, bridle paths, hiking trails, Batman's caves, and even the Hollywood sign.

For astronomy buffs, the landmark Griffith Observatory opens a window on the universe in its planetarium with the world's most advanced star projector; the Big Picture, a floor-to-ceiling digital image of the universe bursting with galaxies and stars; and rooftop telescopes. At the Los Angeles Zoo, you can wander among some 1,200 finned, feathered and furry friends, which promises to enthrall the kids.

Also here is the delightful Travel Town Museum, with its displays of dozens of vintage railcars and locomotives; the Bronson Caves, where scenes from Batman and Star Trek were filmed; the Museum of the American West.

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Marina District
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17 Tours and Activities

Walking down San Francisco’s beautiful Marina District it’s hard to believe that the area was once a marshy swampland. Dredged, developed, and beautified for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition, after decades of renewal, today the Marina itself is full of joggers, bicyclists, and chic young 20-somethings either out at the numerous bars and restaurants or window shopping the upscale waterfront boutiques.

Struck hard by an earthquake in 1989, the urban renewal in years since has left the Marina with an upscale trendy feel. Combine that with great ocean views and some of the nicest parks and walkways in San Francisco and you’ve got a neighborhood with just about everything – and the price tag to match.

For sunny days, head to Crissy Field or Fort Mason and the Presidio for scenic strolling and some of the best views of the Golden Gate. For a fun night-time bar scene, head to “The Triangle” at Fillmore and Greenwich, but be prepared for a crowd.

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Venice Beach
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112 Tours and Activities

Southern California’s quintessential bohemian playground, Venice Beach is a haven for artists, New Agers, homeless people, and free spirits of all stripes. This is where Jim Morrison and the Doors lit their fire, where Arnold Schwarzenegger pumped himself to stardom, and where Julia Roberts and Dennis Hopper make their homes today.

Life on Venice Beach moves to a different rhythm and nowhere more so than on the famous Venice Boardwalk, officially known as Ocean Front Walk. It’s a nonstop Mardi Gras of fortune tellers, street musicians, and characters of all colors, shapes, and sizes. This is where to get your hair braided, your karma corrected, and your back massaged qigong–style.

Encounters with hoop dreamers, a Speedo-clad snake charmer and a roller-skating Sikh minstrel are pretty much guaranteed, especially on hot summer days. The Sunday-afternoon drum circle draws hundreds of revelers for tribal playing and spontaneous dancing.

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Old Mission Santa Barbara
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10 Tours and Activities

Also known as the Santa Barbara Mission or simply “The Mission,” Mission Santa Barbara has come to be more than just a Catholic outpost; it has come to represent all that is historic and cultural in Santa Barbara. A Spanish mission founded by the Franciscan Order in 1786 and built upon a hill overlooking the valley, The Mission, with its beautiful construction and commanding position on the landscape, is a long-standing Santa Barbara favorite.

Rich in history, the missions of California were Spanish colonial outposts and served to help colonize the area. Known for its rolling lawns and rose garden, which are open to the public year round, Mission Santa Barbara is one of the longest continuously operating missions in California. It still takes parishioners to this day, thus maintaining the longest unbroken tradition of choral singing among the California missions.

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More Things to Do in California

Little Italy San Diego

Little Italy San Diego

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26 Tours and Activities

If the Gaslamp Quarter is heart of Old Town San Diego, then Little Italy is its beating heart. Walk these streets to get a feel for the Mom and Pop restaurants, art galleries, and retail shops that make this northwest end of downtown famous. Festivals frequent Little Italy, and the Farmer’s Market every Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. is widely-hailed for its freshly caught fish, local vegetables, and delicious Italian pastries. Many people prefer to eat and drink their way through this Old World slice of San Diego, and who can blame them? Little Italy is one of the highlights of any trip to this beautiful city by the sea.

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Gaslamp Quarter

Gaslamp Quarter

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41 Tours and Activities

Built in the late 19th century, the Gaslamp Quarter is a 16½ block historical neighborhood, filled with streets lined with wrought-iron street lamps, trees, and brick sidewalks. Along with its many historic buildings, the Gaslamp has the city’s highest concentration of bars, nightclubs, and restaurants. Many of the bars double as restaurants as well, making the whole district the prime nightspot in San Diego.

The Gaslamp Quarter is also home to many events and festivals, including Mardi Gras in the Gaslamp, Street Scene Music Festival, the San Diego Comic-Con, Taste of Gaslamp, and ShamROCK, a St. Patrick's Day event. PETCO Park, home of the San Diego Padres is located one block away in downtown San Diego's East Village. Croce's Restaurant & Jazz Bar, named after famous singer Jim Croce, is also located in the Quarter. For a break from the bustling streets of the Gaslamp Quarter, head over to Third Avenue. This is the historic heart of San Diego’s Chinese community.
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Shelter Island

Shelter Island

6 Tours and Activities

Situated just west of downtown, Shelter Island is connected to the mainland by a thin sliver of land — but feels like worlds away. Ships and yachts bobbing in the colorful marina characterize the quaint seaside village, known also for its serene parks, buzzing food scene, and outdoor events. Toward the end of the island sits the historic Yokohama Friendship Bell, given as a gift by San Diego’s sister city of Yokohama, Japan.

Many nautical adventures launch from here, attracting sailors, sea-loving explorers, and marine animal lovers. Travelers flock to Shelter Island for sea cruises, featuring dolphin watching, sea lion scouting, and yacht gazing. Stay awhile and relax at one of the island’s many hotels or resorts, or bask in the sunshine during summer Concerts By The Bay.

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Tunnel View

Tunnel View

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22 Tours and Activities
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Bridalveil Fall

Bridalveil Fall

18 Tours and Activities

One of the first waterfalls that you'll see as you enter Yosemite, Bridalveil Fall is 620 feet (188 meters) in height and flows year-round, with peak water flow occurring in May. On windy days, it looks almost like the waterfall is falling sideways.

Bridalveil Fall became one of the most photographed waterfalls in the park after Ansel Adams published his Gates of the Valley photograph, featuring Bridalveil Fall welcoming visitors to the magnificence of nature that can be found in the park. Take the short (about 20 minutes round trip), but steep, hike up to the base to see the falls close-up, but be sure to dress appropriately: you’ll encounter spray in the spring and possibly icy conditions in the winter.

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Balboa Park

Balboa Park

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39 Tours and Activities

With its world-class museums, manicured gardens, and world-famous San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park tops the list of sights in downtown San Diego. Its 1,200 acres (485 hectares) makes it the largest urban park in the United States. Apart from its many attractions, Balboa Park also features lengthy hiking trails, distinctive landscaping, Golden Age Spanish buildings, and the world’s largest organ.

Balboa Park is divided up into three sections. The central part of the park has the most attractions. The main attraction here is San Diego Zoo, which has more than 3,000 animals, typically in enclosures that replicate their natural habitat. At the Museum of Man, part of the California Quadrangle and its distinctive arch, you can see Native American artifacts. Nearby, the San Diego Museum houses a number of works from European masters from the Renaissance to the modernists.

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Catalina Express

Catalina Express

2 Tours and Activities

Find an island escape right off the urban shore of Southern California by taking a quick ride aboard a Catalina Express ferry. The passenger ferry service offers crossings to the towns of Two Harbors and Avalon on Catalina Island from the ports of San Pedro, Long Beach and Dana Point on the mainland. Trips take about an hour, and most visitors head to Avalon, which can be reached from all three mainland ports. Only the San Pedro departures arrive in Two Harbors. Once on Catalina Island, you can spend a day or more relaxing in the Mediterranean-like atmosphere. Avalon is a popular spot for watersports like scuba diving, kayaking and fishing, while Two Harbors is a great choice for those who want to explore the inland areas of the island to spot local wildlife like Catalina fox and buffalo while hiking or mountain biking.

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Napa Valley Wine Train

Napa Valley Wine Train

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6 Tours and Activities

All aboard for the best train in the West! The beautiful and romantic Napa Valley Wine Train takes the most stunning parts of the Napa and Sonoma valleys and sandwiches them together in a spectacular glide through the rolling countryside. Watch the sun set from elegantly restored vintage Pullman cars as you sweep through the wandering valleys of Napa and Sonoma wine country sipping some of the world’s best wine and nibbling exotic cheeses. Little could be more breathtaking or romantic than this train ride through some of the world’s most famous wineries and some of the most beautiful land in California.

Perfect for those that don’t have much time to spend in this little slice of heaven, the Napa Valley Wine Trail gives you a sweeping view of the Napa and Sonoma valleys while regaling you in luxury, history, and of course, superb wines.

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Fort Point National Historic Site

Fort Point National Historic Site

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40 Tours and Activities

Sitting just below the massive Golden Gate Bridge, Fort Point is a National Historic Site that once served to defend the entrance to San Francisco Bay. The brick fort can still be explored on foot today, with the opportunity to learn about the area’s history and the fort’s former military use.

The fort was in operation from the Gold Rush era through World War II, a fascinating time in San Francisco’s history. A visit to the site offers extraordinary, close-up views of San Francisco’s most famous landmark — the Golden Gate Bridge. It is one of only three third-system brick forts on the west coast of the United States. Due to its location and protection of the coastline, it is also known as the “Gibraltar of the West.”

Visitors have the chance to explore Civil War era uniforms, weaponry, and historic photographs on display. With its many floors and wide brick arches, it stands as an excellent example of American military architecture.

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Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park

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62 Tours and Activities

When San Franciscans refer to "the park", there's only one that gets the definite article: Golden Gate Park. Everything San Franciscans hold dear is here: free spirits, free music, redwoods, Frisbee, protests, fine art, bonsai, and buffalo. Check out the range of attractions listed below, or just follow your bliss from east to west.

Start on the east end, where you pass the Conservatory of Flowers and the sheltered contemplative valley of the AIDS Memorial Grove. As you near the Academy of Sciences, pass by the Shakespeare Garden, featuring 150 plants mentioned in Shakespeare's writings. Nearby are the Japanese Tea Garden, the San Francisco Botanical Garden, and Strybing Arboretum. Head toward Martin Luther King Drive to pass the Polo Fields, where the 1967 Human Be-In took place and free concerts are still held in summer.

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Crissy Field

Crissy Field

42 Tours and Activities

Along the water’s edge and the Presidio neighborhood of San Francisco, Crissy Field is one of the city’s best spots to catch views of the bay and city skyline, feel the sun and/or fog on your face, and enjoy a walk with friends or a pet. Once the U.S. military’s first Air Coast Defense Station on the west coast, it is now a popular place to picnic and enjoy the open space set aside by the Golden Gate National Parks Conservatory.

A trail winds through the area between Marina Green and Fort Point, with a nearby beach and tidal marshes with occasional wildlife. Many of the views from Chrissy Field include a scenic inclusion of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, and Marin Headlands. Locals and tourists alike come to walk, jog, bike, and walk their dogs among some of the city’s best natural beauty.

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Haight-Ashbury

Haight-Ashbury

66 Tours and Activities

Haight-Ashbury is one of the most famous neighborhoods in San Francisco. The neighborhood is most famous for its role as a center of the 1960s hippie movement, reaching a peak in 1967, the "Summer of Love". With this liberal backdrop, modern American counterculture has been synonymous with San Francisco and the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood ever since.

The area still maintains its bohemian vibe, and it's fun just to people watch. In one afternoon you can see a mix of aging flower children, former Dead-heads, musicians, tourists, homeless people, and hip urban professionals going about their day.

The neighborhood is also a thriving center of restaurants, bars, trendy clothing boutiques, booksellers, head shops, and record stores. It's also home to the famous Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream shop, located at the intersection of Haight and Ashbury streets.

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Embarcadero

Embarcadero

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9 Tours and Activities

Lying along the east side of San Diego Bay, the Embarcadero will appeal to fans of the historic maritime vessels and all things associated with the sea. The many attractions here include the Maritime Museum, U.S.S. Midway Museum, the Seaport Village, and Embarcadero Marina Park. The well-manicured waterfront promenades stretch along Harbor Drive and are perfect for strolling or jogging.

On the north end of the Embarcadero is the Maritime Museum, the highlight of which is the Star of India, a historic 19th century vessel. South of the museum, The U.S.S. Midway Museum - a museum housed in a Navy battleship - has loads of exhibits and a stellar collection of fighter planes. South of the Midway is Seaport Village, which has a collection of novelty shops and restaurants. Embarcadero Marina Park, with its public fishing pier and open-air amphitheater, lies to the south.

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Cannery Row

Cannery Row

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17 Tours and Activities

In 1958, Monterey’s most famous waterfront street changed its official name from Ocean View Avenue to its long-time nickname Cannery Row in honor of the 1945 John Steinbeck novel of the same name.

Today’s Cannery Row is a far cry from that of the “tin and iron and rust and splintered wood, chipped pavement and weedy lots and junk heaps, sardine canneries of corrugated iron …” described in Steinbeck’s novel. There has not been a cannery here since 1973 and the street is now filled with shops, from boutiques to chain stores, hotels and restaurants -- and usually populated by more tourists than locals.

It is a wonderful place for strolling, admiring ocean views, snacking on salt-water taffy, gaining easy beach access and watching the many characters that gravitate here. The world famous Monterey Bay Aquarium is located at the northern end of Cannery Row, housed in what was once a sardine cannery.

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