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Fodors Pacifica 2011

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    P R E S E N T E D B Y

    California Coast

    Californias beach culture is, in a word, legendary. Of course, it only makes sense that folks living in a state with a 1,264-mile coastline (a hefty portion of which sees the sun upward of 300 days a year) would perfect the art of beach-going. You can hit the beach almost anywhere, thanks to Californias belief in coastal access as a birthright.

    The farther south you go, the wider, sandier, and sunnier the beaches become; moving north they are rockier and foggier, with colder and rougher surf.

    SAN FRANCISCOSan Franciscans cherish their city for the same rea-sons visitors do: the Bay, the lovely Victorian homes, and the stunning Golden Gate Bridge.

    EXPLORINGAlcatraz. Thousands of visitors a day take the 15-minute ferry ride to the Rock to walk in the footsteps of Alcatrazs notorious criminals. Take the splendid audio tour; gravelly voiced former inmates and hardened guards bring Alcatraz to life. EPier 33, Fishermans Wharf P415/9817625 wwww.nps.gov/alca, www.parkconservancy.org/visit/alcatraz, www.alcatrazcruises.com A$26, includ-ing audio tour; $33 evening tour, including audio CFerry departs every 3045 mins Sept.late May, daily 9:303:20, 4:20 for evening tour Thurs.Mon. only; late MayAug., daily 94, 5:55 and 6:45 for evening tour.Golden Gate Bridge. San Franciscos signature Inter-national Orange entryway is the citys majestic back-ground, and about 10 million people a year head to the bridge for an up-close look. Walking the 1.7 miles to Marin County is much more than a superla-tive photo op (though its that, too). ELincoln Blvd. near Doyle Dr. and Fort Point, Presidio P415/9215858 wwww.goldengatebridge.org CPedestrians Mar.Oct., daily 5 AM9 PM; Nov.Feb., daily 5 AM6 PM; hrs change with Daylight Savings Time. Bicyclists daily 24 hrs.

    Presidio. When San Franciscans want to spend a day in the woods, they head here. The Presidio has 1,400 acres of hills and majestic woods, two small beaches, andthe one thing Golden Gate Park doesnt havestunning views of the bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Marin County. lThe best lookout points lie along Washington Boulevard, which meanders through the park. EBetween Marina and Lincoln Park, Presidio wwww.nps.gov/prsf and www.presidio.gov.BEST BEACHESBaker Beach (Gibson Rd., off Bowley St., south-west corner of Presidio), with gorgeous views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Marin Headlands, is a local favorite. On warm days the beach is packed.

    Sheltered China Beach, one of the citys safest swim-ming beaches, was named for the Chinese fishermen who once camped here. This 600-foot strip of sand south of the Presidio has gentle waters.

    The largestand probably bestof San Franciscos city beaches, Ocean Beach stretches for more than 3 miles along the Great Highway, making it ideal for long walks and runs. Its an easy-to-reach place to chill; spot sea lions; or watch surfers riding the roil-ing waves. (Strong currents bar most swimming.)

    Sports Air Time San Francisco (P650/6389463 wwww.sftandem.com) offers paragliding instruction ($450 for two days; $550 for two people for two days) and tandem scenic flights ($200 per person; discounts for two or more people) just south of San Francisco in Pacifica, where you can fly over the coastal cliffs and take in spectacular views.

    V

    2010 Fodors Travel, a division of Random House, Inc.

    Nobody knows the coast like Pacifica. For more information, visit www.pacificahotels.com/fodors

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    Two of the three cable car lines begin and end their runs at Powell and Market streets, a couple of blocks south of Union Square. These two lines are the most scenic, and both pass near Fisher-mans Wharf, so theyre usually clogged with first-time sightseers. The wait to board a cable car at this intersection is longer than at any other stop in the system. If youd rather avoid the mob, board the less-touristy California line at the bottom of Market Street, at Drumm Street.

    RIDING THE CABLE CARS

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    San LuisRes.P A C I F I C

    O C E A N

    SonomaNapa

    Fairfield

    BerkeleyOakland

    San JosePalo Alto

    Stockton

    Novato

    San Francisco

    MontereySalinas

    Pacifica

    Half Moon Bay

    Santa Cruz

    Castroville

    Los Banos

    Big Sur

    Carmel

    Pacific GroveSoledad

    Chowchilla

    Merced

    Gilroy

    Modesto

    Turlock

    Sonora

    YosemiteVillage

    Fremont

    Lodi

    Jackson

    Point ReyesNational Seashore

    San Joaquin Val ley

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    BEST WESTERN PLUSLighthouse Hotel,

    Pacifica

    BEST WESTERN PLUS Half Moon Bay Lodge,

    Half Moon Bay

    THE BAY AREAIts rare for a metropolis to compete with its suburbs for visitors, but the view from any of San Francis-cos hilltops shows that the Bay Areas temptations extend far beyond the city limits.

    HALF MOON BAYIt may be the largest and most visited of the coastal communities, but Half Moon Bay is still by all mea-sures a small town. Looking from the highway youd hardly even know it was there. Turn onto Main Street, though, and youll find five blocks of galleries, shops, and cafs, many of which occupy renovated 19th-century buildings. The town comes to life on the third weekend in Octo-ber, when 250,000 people gather for the Half Moon Bay Art and Pumpkin Festival. Highlights include a parade, pie-eating contests, street performers, and a weigh-off of giant pumpkins.The 4-mile stretch of Half Moon Bay State Beach (EHwy. 1, west of Main St. P650/7268819) is perfect for long walks, kite flying, and picnic lunches, though the 50F water and dangerous currents make swimming inadvisable. There are three access points,

    one in Half Moon Bay and two south of town off the highway. To find them, look for road signs that have a picture of footsteps.

    MOSS BEACHMoss Beach was a busy outpost during Prohibition, when regular shipments of liquid contraband from Canada were unloaded at the secluded beach and hauled off to San Francisco. Today, although it has grown into a cheerful surfing town with charming inns and restaurants, it is still all but invisible from the highway.

    The biggest Moss Beach attraction is the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve (ECalifornia and North Lake Sts. P650/7283584), a 3-mile stretch of bluffs and tide pools. Since the reserve was protected in 1969, sci-entists have discovered 25 new aquatic species here; depending on the tide, youll most likely find shells, anemones, or starfish.

    Just off the coast at Moss Beach is Mavericks. When theres a big swell, its one of the biggest surfing breaks in the world. Waves here have reportedly reached 60 feet in height.

    Nobody knows the coast like Pacifica. For more information, visit www.pacificahotels.com/fodors

    If you want a very deli-cious sandwich, with thick, fresh homemade bread, I would suggest the San Benito Deli in Half Moon Bay. You can eat outside, or take your sandwich to the beach. Kailani

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    CENTRAL COASTBalmy weather, glorious beaches, crystal-clear air, and serene landscapes have lured people to the Cen-tral Coast for centuries. Its an ideal place to relax, slow down, and appreciate the good things in life.

    SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTYSan Luis Obispo Countys pristine landscapes and abundant wildlife areas, especially those around Morro Bay and Montaa de Oro State Park, have long attracted nature lovers. In the south, Pismo Beach and other coastal towns have great sand and surf. With historical attractions, a photogenic down-town, and busy shops and restaurants, the college town of San Luis Obispo is at the heart of the county.Avila BeachBecause the village of Avila Beach and the sandy, cove-front shoreline for which its named face south into the Pacific Ocean, they get more sun and less fog than any other stretch of coast in the area. For real local color, head to the far end of the cove and watch the commercial fishing boats offload their catch on the old Port San Luis wharf. San Luis ObispoAbout halfway between San Francisco and Los Ange-les, San Luis Obisponicknamed SLOspreads out below gentle hills and rocky extinct volcanoes. Its main appeal lies in its architecturally diverse and commercially lively downtown, especially several blocks of Higuera Street. The pedestrian-friendly district bustles with shoppers, restaurant goers, and students from California Polytechnic State Univer-sity, known as Cal Poly. On Thursday from 6 PM to 9 PM a farmers market fills Higuera Street with local produce, entertainment, and food stalls. SLO is less a vacation destination than a pleasant stopover along

    Highway 1; its a nice place to stay while touring the wine country south of town.ExploringSpecial events often take place on sun-dappled Mission Plaza in front of Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, established in 1772. Its small museum exhibits artifacts of the Chumash Indians and early Spanish settlers, and docents sometimes lead tours of the church and grounds. E751 Palm St. P805/5436850 wwww.missionsanluisobispo.org A$3 sug-gested donation CApr.late-Oct., daily 95; late Oct.Mar., daily 94.The delightful San Luis Obispo Childrens Museum has 21 indoor and outdoor activities that present a kid-friendly version of the city of San Luis Obispo. Visitors enter through an imagination-powered elevator, which transports them to a series of under-ground caverns beneath the city. Kids can pick rubber fruit at a farmers market, clamber up a clockworks tower, race to fight a fire on a fire engine, and learn about solar energy from a 15-foot sunflower. E1010 Nipomo St. P805/5455874 wwww.slocm.org A$8 CApr.Sept., Tues.Fri. 104, Sat. 105, Sun. and select Mon. holidays 115; Oct.Mar., Tues.Fri. 103, Sat. 105, Sun. and select Mon. holidays 15.Across the street from the old Spanish mission, San Luis Obispo County Historical Museum presents rotat-ing exhibits on various aspects of county historysuch as Native American life, California ranchos, and the impact of railroads. A separate childrens room has theme activities where kids can earn prizes. E696 Monterey St. P805/5430638 wwww.slochs.org AFree CWed.Sun. 104.San Luis Obispo is the commercial center of Edna Valley/Arroyo Grande Valley wine country, whose appellations stretch eastwest from San Luis Obispo toward the coast and toward Lake Lopez in the

    Nobody knows the coast like Pacifica. For more information, visit www.pacificahotels.com/fodors

    [San Luis Obispo] is a great place to stay. If youre there on Thursday, youll enjoy the farmers market! willis

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    inland mountains. Many of the 20 or so wineries line Highway 227 and connecting roads. The region is best known for chardonnay and pinot noir, although many wineries experiment with other varietals and blends. Wine-touring maps are readily available around town; note that many wineries charge a small tasting fee and most tasting rooms close at 5.

    While touring Edna Valley wine country, be sure to stop at Old Edna (EHwy. 227, at Price Canyon Rd. P805/5448062 wwww.oldedna.com), a peaceful 2-acre site that once was the town of Edna. Browse for local art, taste wines, pick up sandwiches at the gourmet deli, and stroll along Old Edna Lane.

    Sports and the OutdoorsA hilly greenbelt with vast amounts of open space and extensive hiking trails surrounds the city of San Luis Obispo.

    Pismo BeachAbout 20 miles of sandy shorelinenicknamed the Bakersfield Riviera for the throngs of vacationers who come here from the Central Valleybegins at the town of Pismo Beach. The southern end of town runs along sand dunes, some of which are open to cars and off-road vehicles; sheltered by the dunes, a grove of eucalyptus trees attracts thousands of migrating monarch butterflies November through February. A long, broad beach fronts the center of town, where a municipal pier extends into the sea at the foot of shop-lined Pomeroy Street.

    Fewer than 10,000 people live in this quintessential surfer haven, but Pismo Beach has a slew of hotels and restaurants with great views of the Pacific Ocean. Still, rooms can sometimes be hard to come by. Each Fathers Day weekend the Pismo Beach Classic, one of the West Coasts largest classic-car and street-rod shows, overruns the town. A Dixieland jazz festival in February also draws crowds.

    Morro BayCommercial fishermen slog around Morro Bay in galoshes, and weathered fishing boats bob in the bays protected waters.

    ExploringThe center of the action on land is the Embarcadero (EOn waterfront from Beach St. to Tidelands Park), where vacationers pour in and out of souvenir shops and seafood restaurants and stroll along the scenic Harborwalk to Morro Rock. From here you can get out on the bay in a kayak or tour boat.

    At the mouth of Morro Bay stands 576-foot-high Morro Rock (ENorthern end of Embarcadero) one of nine such small volcanic peaks, or morros, in the area. A short walk leads to a breakwater, with the harbor on one side and the crashing waves of the Pacific on the other.

    Sports and the OutdoorsSub-Sea Tours (E699 Embarcadero P805/7729463 wwww.subseatours.com) operates glass-bottom boat, catamaran, and whale-watching cruises and has kayak and canoe rentals. Virgs Landing (E1215 Embarcadero P805/7721222 wwww.virgs.com) conducts deep-sea fishing and whale-watching trips.Paso RoblesOnce a dusty ranching outpost, Paso Robles is now a booming wine producer with mile upon mile of vineyards.ExploringIn Paso Robles wine country, nearly 200 wineries and more than 26,000 vineyard acres pepper the wooded hills. Small-town friendliness prevails at most winer-ies. Pick up a regional wine-touring map at lodgings, wineries, and attractions around town.The lakeside River Oaks Hot Springs & Spa, on 240 hilly acres near the intersection of U.S. 101 and Highway 46E, is a great place to relax before and after wine tasting. E800 Clubhouse Dr. P805/2384600 wwww.riveroakshotsprings.com AHot tubs $13 to $20 per person per hr CTues.Sun. 99.CambriaIn the 1970s the gorgeous, isolated setting here attracted artists; the town now caters to tourists, but it still bears the unmistakable imprint of its bohe-mian past. ExploringLeffingwells Landing (ENorth end of Moonstone Beach Dr. P805/9272070), a state picnic ground, is a good place for examining tidal pools and watch-ing otters as they frolic in the surf. Lined with low-key motels, Moonstone Beach Drive runs along a bluff above the ocean. The boardwalk that winds along the beach side of the drive makes a great walk. San SimeonSenator George Hearst bought up most of the sur-rounding ranchland here and built a 1,000-foot wharf, turning San Simeon into a bustling port. ExploringHearst Castle, officially known as Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument, sits in solitary splendor atop La Cuesta Encantada (the Enchanted Hill). Its buildings and gardens spread over 127 acres that were the heart of newspaper magnate William Ran-dolph Hearsts 250,000-acre ranch. In its heyday the castle was a playground for Hearst and his guests, many of them Hollywood celebrities. ESan Simeon State Park, 750 Hearst Castle Rd. P805/9272020 or 800/4444445 wwww.hearstcastle.com ADay-time tours $24, evening tours $30 CTours daily 8:203:20, later in summer; additional tours take place most Fri. and Sat. evenings Mar.May and Sept.Dec. cAE, D, MC, V.Nobody knows the coast like Pacifica.

    For more information, visit www.pacificahotels.com/fodors

    I was blown away by the immense outdoor pool at the Hearst Castle. It is huge, and yet incredibly serene in its surround-ings. The Castle is situated on top of the hills in the San Simeon area and allows for massive views of nearly 360 degrees around. L Vantreight

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    A large and growing colony (at last count 15,000 members) of elephant seals gathers every year at Pie-dras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery, on the beaches near Piedras Blancas Lighthouse. EFriends of the Elephant Seal, 250 San Simeon Ave., Suite 3 P805/9241628 wwww.elephantseal.org.VENTURA COUNTYOjaiAcres of orange and avocado groves here evoke post-card images of agricultural Southern California from decades ago. ExploringThe town can be easily explored on foot; you can also hop on the Ojai Valley Trolley (wwww.ojaitrolley.com A50), which follows two routes around Ojai and neighboring Miramonte between 7:15 and 5:15 on weekdays, 9 and 5 on weekends. Tell the driver youre a visitor and youll get an informal guided tour. The 18-mile Ojai Valley Trail (EParallel to Hwy. 33, from Soule Park in Ojai to ocean in Ventura P805/6543951 wwww.ojaichamber.org) is open to pedestrians, bikers, joggers, equestrians, and non-motorized vehicles.

    SANTA BARBARASanta Barbara has long been an oasis for Los Ange-lenos seeking respite from hectic big-city life. The attractions begin at the ocean and end in the foothills of the Santa Ynez Mountains. ExploringAndree Clark Bird Refuge. This peaceful lagoon and its gardens sit north of East Beach. Bike trails and footpaths, punctuated by signs identifying native and

    migratory birds, skirt the lagoon. E1400 E. Cabrillo Blvd. AFree.Mission Santa Barbara. Widely referred to as the Queen of Missions, this is one of the most beauti-ful and frequently photographed buildings in coastal California. Dating to 1786, the architecture evolved from adobe-brick buildings with thatch roofs to more permanent edifices as the missions population burgeoned. E2201 Laguna St. P805/6824149 or 805/6824713 wwww.santabarbaramission.org A$5 CDaily 94:30.Montecito. Since the late 1800s the tree-studded hills and valleys of this town have attracted the rich and famous. Shady roads wind through the community, which consists mostly of gated estates. Swank bou-tiques line Coast Village Road, where well-heeled residents browse for truffle oil, picture frames, and designer sweats.

    Stearns Wharf. Built in 1872, historic Stearns Wharf is Santa Barbaras most visited landmark. Expansive views of the mountains, cityscape, and harbor unfold from every vantage point on the three-block-long pier. ECabrillo Blvd., at foot of State St. P805/8972683 or 805/5645531 wwww.stearnswharf.org.Sports and the OutdoorsThe usually gentle surf at Arroyo Burro County Beach (ECliff Dr., at Las Positas Rd.) makes it ideal for families with young children. The wide swath of sand at the east end of Cabrillo Boulevard on the harbor front is a great spot for people-watching. East Beach (E1118 Cabrillo Blvd. P805/8972680) has sand volleyball courts, summertime lifeguard and sports competitions, and arts-and-crafts shows on Sundays and holidays.

    Nobody knows the coast like Pacifica. For more information, visit www.pacificahotels.com/fodors

    Paso Robles

    Ventura

    Santa Maria

    San Simeon

    Lompoc

    Ojai

    McKittrickSan Luis Obispo

    Cambria

    Pismo Beach

    SantaBarbara

    BEST WESTERN PLUS Fireside Inn, CambriaFogCatcher Inn, Cambria

    Cottage Inn, Pismo BeachSandcastle Inn, Pismo BeachSpyglass Inn, Pismo Beach

    Holiday Inn Express, San Luis Obispo

    Pacifica Suites, Santa Barbara

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    Sea Landing (ECabrillo Blvd., at Bath St. and break-water in Santa Barbara Harbor P805/9653564) operates surface and deep-sea fishing charters year-round. Santa Barbara Sailing Center (ESanta Bar-bara Harbor launching ramp P805/9622826 or 800/3509090) offers sailing instruction, rents and charters sailboats, and organizes dinner and sunset champagne cruises, island excursions, and whale-watching trips. Truth Aquatics (P805/9621127) departs from Sea Landing in the Santa Barbara Har-bor to ferry passengers on excursions to the National Marine Sanctuary and Channel Islands National Park. Their three dive boats also take scuba divers on single-day and multiday trips.

    SANTA BARBARA COUNTYLos OlivosThis pretty village in the Santa Ynez Valley is on what was once El Camino Real (the Royal Highway) and was later a stop on rail routes. ExploringInside the intimate, 99-square-foot Carhartt Vineyard Tasting Room (E2990-A Grand Ave. P805/6935100 wwww.carharttvineyard.com) youre likely to meet owners and winemakers Mike and Brooke Carhartt, who pour samples of their small-lot, hand-crafted vintages most days.Historic Heather Cottage, originally a doctors office, houses the Daniel Gehrs Tasting Room (E2939 Grand Ave. P805/6939686 wwww.danielgehrswines.com). Here you can sample various varietals pro-duced in limited quantities. Firestone Vineyard (E5000 Zaca Station Rd. P805/6883940 wwww.firestonewine.com) has been around since 1972. It has daily tours, grassy picnic areas, and hiking trails in the hills overlooking the valley; the views are fantastic. SolvangThis town was settled in 1911 by a group of Dan-ish educators drawn by familiar flatlands. In recent

    years it has become more sophisticated, with gal-leries, upscale restaurants, and wine-tasting rooms.

    ExploringJust outside Solvang is the Alma Rosa Winery (E7250 Santa Rosa Rd. P805/6889090 wwww.almarosawinery.com). Owners Richard and Thekla Sanford helped put Santa Barbara County on the international wine map with a 1989 pinot noir.

    Housed in an 1884 adobe, the Rideau Vineyard (E1562 Alamo Pintado Rd. P805/6880717 wwww.rideauvineyard.com) tasting room provides both a glimpse of the areas ranching past and excel-lent hand-harvested, Rhne varietals.

    LompocKnown as the flower-seed capital of the world, Lom-poc is blanketed with vast fields of brightly colored flowers that bloom from May through August.

    For five days around the last weekend of June, the Lompoc Valley Flower Festival (P805/7358511 wwww.flowerfestival.org) brings a parade, carni-val, and crafts show to town.

    ExploringAt La Purisima Mission State Historic Park you can see Mission La Purisima Concepcin, the most fully restored mission in the state. Founded in 1787, it stands in a stark and still remote location and power-fully evokes the lives of Californias Spanish settlers. E2295 Purisima Rd., off Hwy. 246 P805/7333713 wwww.lapurisimamission.org A$6 per vehi-cle CDaily 95; tour daily at 1.

    LOS ANGELESLos Angeles is as much a fantasy as it is a physi-cal city. A mecca for face-lifts, film noir, shopping starlets, beach bodies, and mind-numbing traffic, it sprawls across 467 square miles; add in the sur-rounding five-county metropolitan area, and youve got an area of more than 34,000 square miles.

    Nobody knows the coast like Pacifica. For more information, visit www.pacificahotels.com/fodors

    Way back in the 1700s, the Spanish padres who accompanied Father Junpero Serra planted grapevines from Mexico along Californias Central Coast, and began using European wine-making techniques to turn the grapes into delectable vintages.

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    EXPLORINGFarmers Market and the Grove. The saying Meet me at 3rd and Fairfax became a standard line for generations of Angelenos who ate, shopped, and spotted the stars who drifted over from the studios. EFarmers Market, 6333 W. 3rd St.; The Grove, 189 The Grove Dr., Fairfax District P323/9339211 Farmers Market; 323/9008080 The Grove wwww.farmersmarketla.com CFarmers Market weekdays 99, Sat. 98, Sun. 107; the Grove Mon.Thurs. 109, Fri. and Sat. 1010, Sun. 118.Getty Center. With its curving walls and isolated hilltop perch, the Getty Center resembles a pris-tine fortified city of its own. You may be lured by the beautiful views of L.A., but the architecture, uncommon gardens, and fascinating art collections will be more than enough to capture and hold your attention. E1200 Getty Center Dr., Brentwood P310/4407300 wwww.getty.edu AFree, parking $15 CTues.Fri 105:30, Sat. 109, Sun. 105:30.Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Serving as the focal point of the museum district along Wilshire Boulevard, LACMAs vast, encyclopedic collection of more than 100,000 objects dating from ancient times to the present is widely considered one of the most comprehensive in the western United States. E5905 Wilshire Blvd., Miracle Mile P323/8576000 wwww.lacma.org A$12, free 2nd Tues. of month, after-5 policy: pay what you wish. CMon., Tues., and Thurs. noon8, Fri. noon9, weekends 118.Music Center. L.A.s major performing-arts venue since its opening in 1964, the Music Center is also Downtowns centerpiece. Home to the Los Ange-les Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Opera, the Cen-ter Theater Group, and the Los Angeles Master Chorale, the Music Center is also a former site of the Academy Awards. Walt Disney Concert Hall. Designed by Frank Gehry, the Hall opened in 2003 and instantly became a stunning icon of the city. E135 N. Grand Ave., at 1st St., Downtown P213/9727211, 213/9724399 for tour informa-tion wwww.musiccenter.org AFree CFree tours Tues.Fri. 101:30, Sat. 10noon.Olvera Street. This busy pedestrian block tantalizes with piatas, mariachis, and fragrant Mexican food. El Pueblo de Los Angeles, the oldest section of the city, has come to represent the rich Mexican heri-tage of L.A.Rodeo Drive. The ultimate shopping indulgence, Rodeo Drive is one of Southern Californias bona fide tourist attractions; here you can shop for five-digit jewelry or a $35 handbag. The art of window display plays out among the retail elite: Tiffany & Co., Gucci, Jimmy Choo, Valentino, Harry Winston, Prada, and more. EBeverly Hills.

    Santa Monica Pier. Souvenir shops, a psychic adviser, carnival games, arcades, eateries, and Pacific Park are all part of this truncated pier at the foot of Col-orado Boulevard below Palisades Park. The piers trademark 46-horse Looff Carousel has appeared in several films, including The Sting. EColorado Ave. and the ocean, Santa Monica P310/4588900 wwww.santamonicapier.org ARides $2.50 CMon. and Thurs. 115, Fri.Sun. 117.Sunset Strip. For 60 years Hollywoods night owls have headed for the 1-mile stretch of Sunset Bou-levard known as the Sunset Strip. In the 1930s and 40s, stars like Rita Hayworth came for wild eve-nings of dancing and drinking at nightclubs like Tro-cadero, Ciros, and Mocambo. By the 60s and 70s the Strip had become the center of rock and roll for acts like the Doors. The 80s punk riot gave way to hair metal, lead by Mtley Cre and Guns N Roses on the stages of Whisky A Go-Go. Nowadays its the Viper Room and the Key Club, where youll find on-the-cusp actors, rock stars, and club-hopping regulars.

    BEACHESHermosa Beach. South of Manhattan Beach, Her-mosa Beach has all the amenities of its neighbor, but it attracts more of an MTV party crowd. Swimming takes a backseat to the volleyball games and parties on the pier and boardwalk. E1201 The Strand. Her-mosa Ave. and 33rd St., Hermosa Beach P310/3722166 xParking, lifeguard (year-round), restrooms, food concessions, showers, wheelchair access to pier.Leo Carrillo State Beach. On the very edge of Ventura County, this narrow beach is better for exploring than for sunning or swimming (watch that strong undertow). On your own or with a ranger, venture down at low tide to examine tide pools among the rocks. E35000 PCH, Malibu P818/8800350, 800/4447275 for camping reservations xPark-ing, lifeguard (year-round, except only as needed in winter), restroom, showers, fire pits.Malibu Lagoon State Beach/Surfrider Beach. Steady 3- to 5-foot waves make this beach just west of Mal-ibu Pier a surfing paradise. The International Surfing Contest is held here in Septemberthe surfs pre-mium around that time. You can also bird-watch, play volleyball, or take a walk on one of the nature trails, which are perfect for romantic sunset strolls. E23200 PCH, Malibu P310/3059503 xPark-ing, lifeguard (year-round), restrooms, picnic tables.Marina del Rey. Just south of Venice, this beach spot is a good place to grab brunch, take a stroll, or ride bikes along the waterfront. Make a stop at the Fishermans Village, a replica of a New England fishing town.You can catch a harbor tour or rent a tandem bike at Daniels Bicycles (E13737 Fiji Way P310/8234045). During summer months enjoy Nobody knows the coast like Pacifica.

    For more information, visit www.pacificahotels.com/fodors

    As for places to go, the Getty [Center] is a must. Its architecturally beauti-ful and the gardens are absolutely wonderful. Its not the type of museum that you have to just focus on the artworks; we Ange-lenos like to be outside, which is why the outside spaces and views are so breathtaking. Guenmai

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    free water-taxi rides around the marina to all the hot spots. Redondo Beach. The Redondo Beach Pier marks the starting point of this wide, sandy, busy beach alongside a heavily developed shoreline community. Restaurants and shops flourish on the pier, excur-sion boats and privately owned craft depart from launching ramps, and a reef formed by a sunken ship creates prime fishing and snorkeling conditions. ETorrance Blvd. at Catalina Ave., Redondo Beach P310/3722166 xParking, lifeguard (year-round), restrooms, food concessions, showers.Robert H. Meyer Memorial State Beach. Part of Mali-bus most beautiful coastal area, this beach is made up of three minibeaches: El Pescador, La Piedra, and El Matadorall with the same spectacular view. El Mat has a series of caves, Piedra some nifty rock formations, and Pescador a secluded feel; but theyre all picturesque and fairly private. E32350, 32700, and 32900 PCH, Malibu P818/8800350 xPark-ing, 1 roving lifeguard unit, restrooms.Santa Monica State Beach. Its one of L.A.s best known beaches. Wide and sandy, Santa Monica is the place for sunning and socializing: be prepared for a mob scene on summer weekends, when parking becomes an expensive ordeal. Swimming is fine; for surfing, go elsewhere. For a memorable view, climb up the stairway over the PCH to Palisades Park, at the top of the bluffs. E1642 Promenade, PCH at California Incline, Santa Monica P310/3059503 xParking, lifeguard (year-round), restrooms, showers.Venice Beach Oceanfront Walk. The surf and sand of Venice are nice, but the main attraction here is the boardwalk scene, a cosmos all its own, with

    fire-eating street performers, vendors hawking everything from cheap sunglasses to aromatherapy oils, and ripped gym rats lifting weights at legend-ary Muscle Beach. Go on weekend afternoons for the best people-watching experience. There are also swimming, fishing, surfing, basketball (its the site of some of L.A.s most hotly contested pickup games), racquetball, handball, and shuffleboard. You can rent a bike or some in-line skates and hit the Strand bike path. E1800 Ocean Front Walk, west of Pacific Ave., Venice P310/3059503 xParking, restrooms, food concessions, showers, playground.Will Rogers State Beach. This clean, sandy, 3-mile beach, with a dozen volleyball nets, gymnastics equipment, and playground equipment for kids, is an all-around favorite. The surf is gentle, perfect for swimmers and beginning surfers. E15100 PCH, 2 miles north of Santa Monica Pier, Pacific Palisades P818/8800350 xParking, lifeguard (year-round, except only as needed in winter), restrooms.Zuma Beach Park. Zuma, 2 miles of white sand usu-ally littered with tanning teenagers, has it all: from fishing and diving to swings for the kids to volley-ball courts. Beachgoers looking for quiet or privacy should head elsewhere. E30050 PCH, Malibu P818/8800350 xParking, lifeguard (year-round, except only as needed in winter), restrooms, food concessions, playground.

    ORANGE COUNTYWith its tropical flowers and palm trees, this stretch of coast is often called the California Riviera. Exclu-sive Newport Beach, artsy Laguna, and the surf town of Huntington Beach are the stars, but lesser-known

    Nobody knows the coast like Pacifica. For more information, visit www.pacificahotels.com/fodors

    Venice Beach is part of skateboardings Dogtown, where the Zephyr Team (or Z-Boys) created the mod-ern version of the sport.

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    Venice Beach is a must-see for teens, especially if its a nice weekend day. You can also go on the Santa Monica Pier and the 3rd Street Promenade all in the same general vicinity Parking at Venice Beach is more of a challenge, but its worth it. alison

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    gems on the glistening coastsuch as Corona del Marare also worth visiting.

    EXPLORINGMidway between Corona del Mar and Laguna, stretching along both sides of Pacific Coast High-way, Crystal Cove State Park is a favorite of local beachgoers and wilderness trekkers. It encompasses a 3-mile stretch of unspoiled beach and has some of the best tide-pooling in southern California. P949/4943539 wwww.crystalcovestatepark.com A$10 per car CDaily 6dusk.BEACHESCorona del Mar State Beach (P949/6443151 wwww.parks.ca.gov A$8$15 CDaily 6 AM10 PM) is made up of two beaches, Little Corona and Big Corona, separated by a cliff. lTwo colorful reefs make Corona del Mar great for snorkelers.

    Dana Point Harbor (P949/9232255 wwww.danapointharbor.com) is a lovely marina with docks for small boats, marine-oriented shops, restaurants, and boat and bike rentals. At the south end of Dana Point, Doheny State Beach (P949/4966171, 714/4336400 water-quality information wwww.dohenystatebeach.org) is one of Southern Califor-nias top surfing destinations. Divers and anglers hang out at the beachs western end, and during low tide, the tide pools beckon. Huntington Beach (P714/9693492 wwww.surfcityusa.com) was once a sleepy residential town with little more than a string of surf shops. Now its transformed into a resort destination. The towns appeal is its broad white-sand beaches, comple-mented by a lively pier. Just up Main Street from the pier, the International Surfing Museum pays tribute to the sports greats with the Surfing Hall of Fame, which has an impressive collection of surfboards and memorabilia. E411 Olive Ave., Huntington Beach P714/9603483 wwww.surfingmuseum.org AFree, $1 suggested donation for students, $2 for adults CYear-round weekdays noon5, week-ends 116.Even the approach tells you that Laguna Beach (P800/8771115 wwww.lagunabeachinfo.org)is exceptional. Driving in along Laguna Canyon Road from the I405 freeway gives you the chance to cruise through a gorgeous coastal canyon, large stretches of which remain undeveloped. Youll arrive at a glistening wedge of ocean, at the intersection with PCH. All along the highway and side streets youll find dozens of fine-art and crafts galleries, clothing boutiques, and jewelry shops. Lagunas central beach gives you a perfect slice of local life. A stocky 1920s lifeguard tower marks Main Beach Park, at the end of Broadway at South Coast High-way. A wooden boardwalk separates the sand from

    a strip of lawn. Walk along this, or hang out on one of its benches, to watch people bodysurfing, playing sand volleyball, or scrambling around one of two half-basketball courts. The beach also has childrens play equipment, picnic areas, restrooms, and show-ers. Across the street is a historic Spanish Renais-sance movie theater.Newport Beach (P800/9426278 wwww.visitnewportbeach.com) has two distinct personali-ties. Theres the island-dotted yacht harbor, where the wealthy play. Then theres inland Newport Beach, a business and commercial hub lined with office buildings, shopping centers, and hotels. New-ports best beaches are on Balboa Peninsula.

    SAN DIEGOSan Diego is a big citysecond only to Los Angeles in population in the statewith a small-town feel. It also covers a lot of territory, roughly 400 square miles of land and sea. To the north and south of the city are 70 miles of beaches. Inland, a succession of chaparral-covered mesas are punctuated with deep-cut canyons that step up to savanna-like hills, sepa-rating the coast from the arid Anza-Borrego Desert.

    EXPLORINGBalboa Park. Oasis is hardly hyperbole when it comes to describing the 1,200-acre cultural heart of San Diego. Take a peaceful stroll or plan a full day of perusing Balboa Parks many museums, theater spaces, gardens, trails, and playing fields. And dont forget the San Diego Zoo.Gaslamp Quarter Historic District. This quarter has the largest collection of commercial Victorian-style buildings in the country. The majority of the quar-ters landmark buildings are on 4th and 5th avenues.La Jolla. La Jollans have long considered their village to be the Monte Carlo of California. Its coastline curves into natural coves backed by verdant hillsides dotted with homes worth millions. Although La Jolla is a neighborhood of the city of San Diego, it has its own postal zone and a coveted sense of class. The ultrarich from around the globe own second homes herethe seaside zone between the neighborhoods bustling downtown and the cliffs above the Pacific has a distinctly European flavorand old-monied residents maintain friendships with the visiting film stars and royalty who frequent the areas exclusive luxury hotels and private clubs. The town has a cosmopolitan air that makes it a popular vacation resort.Maritime Museum. A must for anyone with an inter-est in nautical history, this collection of restored and replica ships affords a fascinating glimpse of San Diego during its heyday as a commercial sea-port. You can take to the water in the museums

    Nobody knows the coast like Pacifica. For more information, visit www.pacificahotels.com/fodors

    Laguna Beach can be quite affordable as it is at heart an artist community. If you paint or take photos you will feel like a local. Kailani

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    sailing ship, the Californian. This replica of a 19th-century revenue cutter that patrolled the shores of California is designated the states official tall ship. Weekend sails, typically from noon to 4, cost $42. E1492 N. Harbor Dr. P 619/2349153 wwww.sdmaritime.org A$14 includes entry to all ships except the Californian C98, until 9 PM Memorial Day to Labor Day. SeaWorld San Diego. Awe-inspiring orcas and other cute sea critters perform splashy tricks at stage shows, but theres much else for families to enjoy, from the Journey of Atlantis water ride to feeding chum to bottlenose dolphins at Rocky Point Pre-serve. E500 Sea World Dr., near west end of I8, Mission Bay P800/2574268 wwww.seaworld.com A$69 adults, $59 kids; parking $12 cars; 1-hr behind-the-scenes walking tours $13 extra cAE, D, MC, V CDaily 10dusk; extended hrs in summer.BEACHESCoronado Beach. With the famous Hotel Del Coro-nado as a backdrop, this stretch of sandy beach is one of San Diego Countys largest and most picturesque. Its perfect for sunbathing, people-watching, or Fris-bee. jFrom San Diego-Coronado bridge, turn left on Orange Ave. and follow signs, Coronado.Mission Beach. San Diegos most popular beach draws huge crowds on hot summer days, but its lively year-round. Surfers, swimmers, and volleyball players congregate at the south end. jExit I5 at Grand Ave. and head west to Mission Blvd. Turn south and look for parking near roller coaster at West Mission Bay Dr., Mission Bay.La Jolla Cove. A palm-lined park sits on top of cliffs formed by the incessant pounding of the waves, cre-ating one of the prettiest spots on the West Coast. At low tide the tide pools and cliff caves draw explorers.

    jFollow Coast Blvd. north to signs, or take La Jolla Village Dr. Exit from I5, head west to Torrey Pines Rd., turn left, and drive downhill to Girard Ave. Turn right and follow signs, La Jolla.La Jolla Shores. This is one of San Diegos most popu-lar beaches, so get here early on summer weekends. An incredible view of the peninsula, a wide sandy beach, an adjoining grassy park, and the gentlest waves in San Diego lure you in. E8200 Camino del Oro jFrom I5 take La Jolla Village Dr. west and turn left onto La Jolla Shores Dr. Head west to Camino del Oro or Vallecitos St. Turn right, La Jolla.Pacific Beach/North Pacific Beach. The boardwalk of Mission Beach turns into a sidewalk here, but there are still bike paths and picnic tables along the beachfront. Pacific Beach runs from the north end of Mission Beach to Crystal Pier. North Pacific Beach extends from the pier north. The scene here is par-ticularly lively on weekends. There are designated surfing areas, and fire rings are available. Parking can be a challenge, but there are plenty of restrooms, showers, and restaurants in the area. jExit I5 at Grand Ave. and head west to Mission Blvd. Turn north and look for parking, Mission Bay. Torrey Pines State Beach and Reserve. One of San Diegos best beaches encompasses 2,000 acres of bluffs and bird-filled marshes. A network of mean-dering trails leads to the sandy shoreline below. jTake Carmel Valley Rd. Exit west from I5, turn left on Rte. S21, Del Mar P858/7552063 wwww.torreypine.org AParking $10.

    Nobody knows the coast like Pacifica. For more information, visit www.pacificahotels.com/fodors

    The Star of India, the oldest active sailing ship in the world, still occasionally plies San Diego Bay.

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    berned

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    rs.com

    Unlike most East Coast or Midwest big cities, you will be surprised that [in San Diego] the actual traffic downtown is much less difficult than trying to get to or from downtown from an outlying area. The actual downtown area is quite small. Downtown (or Hillcrest, my favorite) is close to Balboa Park (and the San Diego Zoo), to the bay, to the ocean, etc. d_claude_bear

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