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Things to Do in California - page 5

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Hollywood & Highland
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19 Tours and Activities

One of L.A.'s most visited tourist attractions, this 387,000 square-foot shopping mall and entertainment center makes an enormous, colorful splash on the sometimes scruffy Hollywood Walk of Fame. The complex includes the Dolby Theatre (formerly known as the Kodak Theatre) which hosts both the Oscars and Cirque du Soleil's Iris, a resident stage show which celebrates the history of film.

The core of Hollywood & Highland is arranged around a three-story courtyard, where soaring, elephant-topped columns evoke the Babylon set of D.W. Griffith's 1916 epic, Intolerance. Fanning out from here, you'll find over a dozen restaurants ranging from food-court outposts to destination dining, two night clubs, a bowling alley and 75+ retail shops, including large national chains like Gap, Build-A-Bear and Sephora. Adjacent to the main mall is the famous Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, an ornate movie palace festooned with Far East flourishes and featuring a cement-paved forecourt.

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Madame Tussauds Hollywood
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17 Tours and Activities

Unlike her lifelike figures, Madame Tussaud was a real human being, a wax sculptor in 1770s Paris who became an art tutor at the Palace of Versailles. During the French Revolution, she was forced to prove her allegiance to King Louis IVX by making death masks of executed aristocrats; lauded for her work, she eventually left for Britain with many of her works in tow. In the early 19th century, a showcase for her wax likenesses of famous -- and infamous -- contemporary figures was built in London; the Madame Tussauds brand has since become a popular global franchise, spreading across Europe, Asia, Australia and several American cities.

One of the most-visited Madame Tussauds sits on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue. The wax figures featured here depict famous Hollywood icons, contemporary movie stars and TV actors, auteur film directors (such as Alfred Hitchcock) and movie-franchise characters (like E.T. and the X Men).

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Hollywood
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The Golden-Age glamor image of Hollywood may not be as evident as it once was, however, its very name is synonymous with the entire movie industry. For this is the shrine to the movie industry: stars in the sidewalks, the sign, glorious old theaters, the places where the movie industry grew up.

Most of the sights line up neatly along a 1-mile (1.6 km) stretch of Hollywood Boulevard between La Brea Avenue and Vine Street. Find your favorite stars along Hollywood Walk of Fame, the celestial sidewalk gallery on Hollywood Boulevard.

At the grand entryway to Grauman's Chinese Theater, you can actually match your handprints and footprints of stars who've have had theirs embedded in cement. Other famous theaters include the Eyptian and El Capitan, all flamboyant icons from Hollywood's glitzy past.

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San Diego Convention Center
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The well-known San Diego Convention Center is a staple structure in the city. The impressively equipped location hosts many of San Diego’s famous events and happenings — most notably, the entertainment bonanza that is Comic-Con International. Enjoy the sunny, bayside views and free WiFi while attending one of the events held here before taking a quick walk to the numerous restaurants and shops nearby in the historic Gaslamp Quarter. Check out what’s going on at the convention center during your next visit for some entertainment.

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Mist Trail
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One of the most iconic hikes in Yosemite, the Mist Trail leads hikers to not one, but two of Yosemite's standout waterfalls: Vernal and Nevada Falls. You can reach the Vernal Fall footbridge (the best view of Vernal Fall) in about 1.5 mile (2.6 km) round-trip; be prepared for a three mile (4.8 km) to reach Vernal Fall. The hike isn't difficult if you stop at the footbridge, but if you continue up to Vernal Fall, be prepared for steps cut into the cliff side.

Pushing on to Nevada Fall will take your total up to a seven mile (11 km) round trip, but it's worth it for some of the finest views in all of Yosemite, encompassing Nevada Fall, Liberty Cap, and the back side of Half Dome. You'll get close enough to the falls that you’ll feel the spray kiss your face and clothes, so wear proper clothing and exercise caution when hiking on the slick rocks.

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Ansel Adams Gallery
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Ansel Adams is known for his striking black and white photos, capturing and preserving the wild beauty of nature’s monuments. Through his poignant images of Half Dome and Vernal Fall, Yosemite became a symbol for the evocative drama of the American West and the park took its place in the hearts and consciousness of the American public.

Fans of Ansel Adams will definitely want to visit the gallery in Yosemite, which features original photos, archival replicas and other unique pieces. More than just a display of Adams’ work, the gallery also features works from other contemporary artists; exhibits are rotated every six weeks. The gallery hosts a variety of activities, including photography workshops, viewings of Ansel Adams films and free camera walks every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday during the summer.

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Gaslamp Museum at the Davis-Horton House
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Built in 1850, the William Heath Davis House is the oldest house in San Diego’s Historic Gaslamp Quarter. It was owned by, you guessed it William Heath Davis, but he didn’t build it in San Diego. The pre-fabricated house was shipped to town from Portland, Maine by boat via Cape Horn.

It was Davis’ dream to build a city near San Diego Bay. New Town as it was called, included a wharf, store, park and several houses, but there was no potable water. When Davis lost his fortune he gave up on the city that would later become the Gaslamp District. The William Heath Davis House is also the home to the nonprofit Gaslamp Quarter Historical Foundation.

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More Things to Do in California

Sutro Baths

Sutro Baths

13 Tours and Activities

Once a large, privately owned indoor swimming pool complex in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Recreation Area, due to a fire in 1966, the ruins of this magnificent bath-house now sit seemingly forgotten by time save for a small museum and gift store atop the hill. The ruins themselves stand all-but-gone amidst the beauty of the rough Californian coast, and are a great stoic testament to the innovation of man and the humbling power of Mother Nature.

Easily accessible by the Sutro Baths Trail right off of the Lands End parking lot, this hallowed, beautiful, and eerie escape amongst the cypress-lined cliffs are a great stop for any day spent exploring the San Franciscan outdoors. And while often windy, the Sutro Baths Museum offers guests a chance to come in from the cold, sip some coffee or hot cocoa, and get a glimpse into a time when this landmark was once the largest indoor bath house in the world.

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Ocean Beach San Francisco

Ocean Beach San Francisco

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Running the western strip of San Francisco, Ocean Beach is a 3.5 mile strip of white beach and beautiful ocean. Adjacent to Golden Gate Park and so straight and flat you’ll think it was drawn by a ruler, Ocean Beach is great for joggers, Frisbee players, young love, and just coming to the beach and watching the tide come in. Though the water is cold, the views are spectacular, and you’ll often find it unoccupied – great for getting out of the city while remaining firmly within its borders.

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The Magic Castle

The Magic Castle

3 Tours and Activities
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Legion of Honor

Legion of Honor

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At once both a place of peace and relaxation and a museum housing collections spanning more than 6,000 years of ancient and European Art, the California Palace of the Legion of Honor is a museum that always takes precedence on any visit to San Francisco. Easily identifiable by the classical façade, its grand fountain, and the statue of El Cid in front of the museum, the Legion of Honor is hailed as a great representation of some of the most iconic art of the early Renaissance. In addition, the Legion of Honor houses the Skinner Organ, an organ of such amazing capacity and diversity that its concerts routinely sell out to people who come to hear the colors of a full symphony, echoed by one magnificent instrument.

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ZD Wines

ZD Wines

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Created by two aerospace engineers who turned their interest to wine making, ZD Wines has a family history three generations strong in Napa Valley. The deLeuze family offers a number of ways for visitors to add ZD Wines to their Napa itinerary. Along with tasting, guests have the opportunity to learn about farming and the art of wine making. A variety of tours are offered by appointment.

The Eco Vineyard Tour and Wine Tasting offers an education about organic farming and includes a walk through the organically certified Estate Cabernet Vineyard. It also includes a wine tasting paired with a selection of artisan cheeses. If you’re more interested in what’s happening inside winery walls, the Cellar Tour includes a private tour of the cellar and barrel tastings.

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17-Mile Drive

17-Mile Drive

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17-Mile Drive is often said to be one of the most scenic drives in the world and is an essential experience on any visit to California. Driving along the road offers some of the best views of Monterey Bay and many scenic lookouts with designated stopping points.

The drive runs along a winding road, through upscale neighborhoods from Pacific Grove to Pebble Beach and goes past forested areas, along the oceanfront and past several golf courses. Some of the best places to stop are at Cypress Point Lookout, where you can see harbor seals basking on sand and rocks; Spanish Bay where you can follow a paved coastal trail to Asilomar State Beach, and the iconic Lone Cypress, which has stood on its wave-lashed, wind-beaten rocky perch for more than 250 years.

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La Brea Tar Pits

La Brea Tar Pits

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Set beside the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) in Mid-City's Hancock Park, these are real live cesspools in the heart of Tinseltown. While the asphalt here was first excavated back in 1915 (when this spot was home to the city’s natural history museum), the pits themselves were discovered as many as 40,000 years ago by hapless saber-toothed tigers, dire wolves and ground sloths who fell in and drowned. The misfortune of these bygone beasts is symbolized by life-size statues of imperiled woolly mammoths caught in a still-bubbling pool of tar.

Preserved for an aeon or so, the Pits' amazing Ice Age fossils are tagged in various excavation sites around the park. Work is generally slow, however, as the ground here is constantly evolving; around the park and out on Wilshire Boulevard you can still see black, sticky asphalt oozing up from cracks in the road and sidewalk.

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Monterey Bay Aquarium

Monterey Bay Aquarium

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There is a reason that Monterey Bay is considered the top aquarium in the country and draws around two million visitors a year. The nearly 200 exhibits and galleries feature 623 different species of plants and creatures: from adorable sea otters to otherworldly jellyfish, swirling sardines and crafty sharks that glide through the water. Visitors can get up-close with bat rays at the petting pool, and watch divers hand-feed sharks and fish at the kelp forest and blackfooted penguins in the Splash Zone.

What makes Monterey Bay Aquarium so special is its commitment to environmental conservation and education. The aquarium continuously pumps Monterey Bay ocean water through the tanks. During the day the water is filtered for clarity and at night the unfiltered water brings in food in the form of plankton. Waste ocean water from the aquarium is returned to the bay – making the aquarium essentially a part of the ocean.

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Tuolumne Meadows

Tuolumne Meadows

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Located in the eastern section of Yosemite National Park, Toulumne Meadows provides an alternate view from the popular Yosemite Valley section of the park. A gently rolling, sub-alpine area near the Tuolumne River, the Meadows is home to a wide variety of wildlife, several alpine lakes, hiking trails and plenty of rock climbing.

Try the easy hike to Soda Springs and Parsons Lodge or trek up to Gaylor Lake for spectacular high-country views. Less crowded than the Valley, Toulumne is worth the approximately two-hour drive from the Yosemite Valley to experience this idyllic setting.

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Tioga Pass

Tioga Pass

9 Tours and Activities
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Hollywood Forever Cemetery

Hollywood Forever Cemetery

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Founded in 1899, this is Hollywood's oldest cemetery, a burial ground for some of L.A.'s most historically important and famous citizens. Today, it's a gathering place for community events, like a huge celebration of Dia De Los Muertos (the Mexican Day of the Dead) and a popular summer-Saturday series of outdoor movie screenings.

Its original owners, San Fernando Valley developers Isaac Lankershim and son-in-law Isaac Van Nuys (whose names, respectively, are lent to a major boulevard in North Hollywood and a town in the northwest Valley), sold much of the cemetery in 1920 to Paramount Pictures, RKO Studios and the Beth Olam Synagogue. As a result, many entertainers (like Cecil B. DeMille, Douglas Fairbanks, and two of the Ramones) and prominent Jews (like gangster/entrepreneur Bugsy Siegel) are buried here.

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Nob Hill

Nob Hill

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One of San Francisco’s original “Seven Hills,” Nob Hill gets its name from old gold-rush times when, as the bawdy waterfront offered no escape for the wealthy, the wealthy looked to build their homes on higher ground. The “nob” of Nob Hill actually is a contraction of an old Hindu word meaning, roughly, someone who has made his fortune. Today, Nob Hill is still home to some of San Francisco’s towering mansions and luxury hotels, but it’s historic feel and the eclectic neighborhoods that surround it give the area, for lack of a better phrase, a distinctly San Francisco feel.

While visiting, consider seeing some of the areas historic roots like the Huntington Hotel, the Fairmont Hotel, and Flood Mansion, all of which share in the vintage feel instilled by the old barber shops and cocktail lounges that line the streets. Popular sites of the neighborhood include the Cable Car Museum, the Grace Cathedral Episcopal Church and the Lumiere Theatre.

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South Lake Tahoe

South Lake Tahoe

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South Lake Tahoe, perched on the largest Alpine lake in North America on the California–Nevada border, is one of the region’s most popular hot spots. The city offers stellar water views and serviceable accommodations with easy access to the lake, plus casinos, great skiing, beaches, and bike trails.
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De Young Museum

De Young Museum

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Also known as the M. H. de Young Memorial Museum, this fine arts museum is known for its creative offerings as well as its unusual exterior and prime location in Golden Gate Park. As many people in the community were unhappy with a large museum being constructed in the middle of the park, the architects covered the building -- which is made of natural materials like stone, wood and glass -- in 950,000 pounds of perforated copper in order for it to oxidize and eventually turn green, blending in with the landscape’s eucalyptus trees. Additionally, the textured copper helps the structure to imitate light shining in through a tree canopy. By doing this, the De Young Museum aims to act as a natural addition to the Golden Gate Park.

Upon first viewing the building, you’ll probably notice the striking copper exterior as well as the 144-foot twisting tower off to the side.

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