Redding, CA: Shape Up In Shasta Cascade

The breathtaking Shasta Cascade region offers world-class rivers, lakes and trails making it the perfect location to shape up with a plethora of outdoor activities....

Long Beach CA: Hotel Maya

Paying homage to this mysterious culture stands the Hotel Maya along the harbor in Long Beach. Complete with the unique and spectacular architectural style of the stepped pyramids, Hotel Maya welcomes guests into their "village" of modern structures assembled to create this luxurious seaside resort.

Murphys, CA: Murphys Haunted Hotel

When you arrive in the authentic town of Murphys, nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas, the locals will ask about where you are staying. If your response is Murphys Historic Hotel, expect the response to be, Haunted! That hotel is haunted!

San Diego, CA: The Keating Hotel

Southern California. Italian design. Ferrari. Stainless steel. Maserati. Bang and Olufsen. Rain showerheads. Just one of these by itself is damn sexy. Put them all together, add a king-sized bed, and you have the uber sexy Keating Hotel.

Arrowhead, CA: Mountain Swimming Hole

Nothing beckons the old days of hiking up the mountains to a nearby waterfall and jumping into the water feet first. Local photographer Sam Katz brings us back to those old memories with a look back.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Santa Barbara to Monterey by Car

bixby creek bridge
Northern Santa Barbara County, and the California coast beyond, offer tourist attractions worth spending a few days enjoying. There are a number of natural wonders and great tourist stops to be seen driving north from Santa Barbara. This trip is suitable for both couples and families.

The Route

Take the San Marcos Pass road as you leave the city of Santa Barbara. This is a breathtaking mountain drive that heads up the side of La Cumbra Peak on Highway 154. Along the way to the highest part of the highway, there are many scenic turnouts for a panoramic view of Santa Barbara, the Channel Islands National Park and the many miles of coastline.

Once over the pass, you'll drive by Cachuma Lake. This is a state recreation resource for camping and fishing.

Santa Ynez, for which this valley and region are named, is an old California mission town. Here you will find a number of fine art galleries and the county's fine wineries. Notable celebrity homes here include President Reagan's ranch and the Neverland retreat of entertainer Michael Jackson.

The quaint community of Solvang is just a few miles west of Santa Ynez on Hwy. 246, just west of Hwy. 101. It is a remarkable replication of an old Danish village, complete with a giant windmill. The town boasts some of the best Danish bakeries and buffet smorgasbords in the country. Spend a few hours here for lunch, and to visit the Scandinavian craft and souvenir shops. You'll forget, for just a while, that you're in the heart of Southern California horse and wine country.

The beautiful state beach parks just a few miles north of the city are yet another group of attractions. Leaving town, travel north along the coast on Highway 101. The road today retraces the historic El Camino Real, or King's Highway. Check out El Capitan, Refugio or Gaviota state beach parks. They offer fishing, camping, and picnic sites on remarkable beaches.

Santa Maria is the next town up the highway. Santa Maria Tri-Tip barbecue is a local tradition. It's not like anything you'll find in Texas or other barbecue meccas. This is rubbed and marinated barbecued sirloin roast. It's sliced thin, and is usually served rare. Typically it is eaten with corn tortillas or on a sandwich bun, and along with Santa Maria's slow-baked Poquito beans. It's well worth the stop to try.

Less than half an hour north of Santa Maria is the picturesque seaside town of Pismo Beach. Most of the motels and restaurants are on the ocean side of the highway, set on the cliffs overlooking a view of miles of coastline. Pismo Beach claims to be the world's clam capital, owing to the unusually large, tasty and abundant Pismo clam. Several versions of clam recipes are available in a number of the local restaurants.

The nearby Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area. It is a 1,500 acre sand dune state park for ATV and 4-wheel vehicles. There are camping and RV facilities available. This is one of the few places in California where driving on the beach is permitted. Bringing folding beach chairs is a good idea.

Continuing north from Pismo Beach, you can drive up the tiny coast road to the town of Morro Bay. It's a town with a distinctive New England coastal flavor. This is where the Pacific Coast Highway becomes part of the National Scenic Byways Program. Enjoy the road stretch from Morro Bay on the south, along the Big Sur coastline, up to Monterey at the north. Without exaggeration, this is one of the most beautiful and breathtaking roads anywhere in the world.

Exploring the central California coast is a great and affordable journey. There's no need to forgo travel plans because of today's high cost of living.

If you have room for portable beach chairs in the trunk, you will be set. Using small suitcases for travel snacks and coloring books will help amuse kids during the journey.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Top 3 Easy to Moderate Hikes in Santa Barbara County

santa barbara hikesSanta Barbara County is a coastal town region in Central California. Blessed with great weather all year around and located between the Pacific Ocean and the mountain, it has many outdoor opportunities.

The Santa Ynez mountain provides numerous hiking trails that usually reward hikers with an expansive view of the town and the ocean.

All the hikes mentioned below should be do-able by anyone in decent fitness and should take anywhere from 2 hour to half a day.

1. Gaviota Peak - 6 miles round trip

The hike up Gaviota Peak albeit can be quite a workout, will provide hikers with a 360-degree view of Santa Ynez Mountain, the Channel Islands, and the Gaviota coast.

The trailhead is located at the Gaviota State Park, a 30 minute drive on Highway 101 north of the city of Santa Barbara.

The trail is a wide and unpaved road starting at the end of the parking lot. At 0.4 mile there's a fork to the right that will take you to Gaviota Hot Springs.

Continuing onto the main trail and pass some switchbacks you will reach a metal gate before a junction. Take the right fork that will take you to the peak and the spectacular view that awaits you.

2. Aniso Trail (from El Capitan State Beach to Refugio State Beach) - 5 miles round trip

The Aniso trail is a paved trail connecting the two state parks. It follows the shore, passes sandstone bluffs and secluded coves, and provides constant view of the coastline.

From the day use parking lot in El Capitan State Beach, head to the general store. The trail starts on the side of the store.

3. Ellwood Bluffs - 3.5 miles round trip

The Ellwood Bluffs Trail follows along 80-foot cliffs by the ocean. It's located in Santa Barbara Shores County Park is one of the most popular trails in the park.

The County Park can be accessed by taking Highway 101 North and exiting Glen Annie in Goleta. Drive on Hollister Avenue until you see the parking lot on the left.

The trail is well marked. Cross the creek and follow the trail as it veers left heading towards the bluffs. Follow the trail to the left along the cliff's edge. Soon you'll see a junction with a beach access trail that you can take to get to the beach below.

Farther on, the path will head inland and curve back to the starting point.

All of the hiking trails above are exposed. So bring necessary protection from the sun.

There more hiking trails in Santa Barbara to explore. Find out everything that Santa Barbara has to offer during your visit to Santa Barbara.

5 Best Small Cities in California

santa barbara state street
What kind of imagery comes to people's mind when they think of California? Hollywood with its red carpet and movie stars? Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco? These cities are famous for a reason - they're filled with unique things that make California what it is: great weather, beaches, great food, and a diverse community of residents.

Having said that, California is more than just Los Angeles and San Francisco. Don't miss out on these smaller cities that are filled with charm with beautiful sceneries to boot.

Santa Barbara

This coastal town between Los Angeles and San Francisco is worth visiting for its proximity to the ocean and the mountain. It's a renown playground for the rich and famous. Oprah is rumored to own a house in Montecito, a neighborhood of Santa Barbara. Just a short detour away off Highway 1 Santa Barbara makes a perfect stop for those doing a trip along the coast of California.


Also located between Los Angeles and San Francisco, Cayucos is a small beach resort town of 3000 residents. The name comes from the Chumash Indian's word for "kayak" or "canoe". Cayucos is a perfect base to explore the central coast of California including sights such as Hearst Castle, Morro Bay, as well as other small coastal towns such as Cambria and San Luis Obispo.


Want to have a taste of Denmark while in California? Solvang is where you need to be. This town, 90 minutes north of Los Angeles, is filled with Danish characters - there are charming windmills, European style houses, and Danish restaurants. Visit the Solvang Shoe Store to get a pair of your own painted wooden clogs. The town is so small we recommend renting a bike to do your own exploring.


World known for its collection of wineries surrounding the area, the city of Napa is worth visiting. It makes for a perfect base to visit the natural hot spring in Calistoga. It's also a pleasant town to sit back and enjoy the nature while sipping on a glass of local wine. In order to see the wineries, there are many tours offered by local businesses. You can visit the wineries by jeeps, bicycles, motorcycles, and even limousines.


Mendocino is a city in Mendocino county and is a popular vacation getaway for the residents of Northern California. Known for its resident population of artists, the town has a large concentration of art galleries as well as trendy restaurants and shops. On top of the art scene, visitors can also go whale watching and do other beach related activities. The most scenic way to get to here is by following Highway One all the way from San Francisco.

California offers so much more than their famous big cities. If you have time to spare when visiting the state, venture out to these small coastal towns. You won't regret it. These smaller towns along the coast are worthy of visit for their laid back charms and natural beauty.

A local, a traveller, and a writer - Caro Hill's lives on the coast of California. She loves finding out new things to add to her list of what to do in Santa Barbara.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Palm Springs, CA: Tahquitz Creek Golf Resort

tahquitz creek golf resort
Shortly after I arrived in the Coachella Valley for a little golf action, I started looking for a place that could to be fully challenge my improving golf game.

The Tahquitz Creek Golf Resort in Palm Springs was recommended to me by a number of the local residents and I made it my first stop on my golf vacation to the California desert. After playing not one but two rounds of golf, it is now a mandatory stop on my desert golf vacations.

Tahquitz Creek Golf Resort is one of the premier public golf courses in the desert. It provides world-class golf facilities along with being located right near the Palm Springs International Airport. I was quick to learn that both courses were highly intelligent and bring their own obstacles to bear.

The first of the two courses Tahquitz Creek Golf Resort offered was The Legend Course that is traditional course that is a Palm Springs favorite. This course is distinguished by the 40 new bunkers that have been added, the tree lined fairways that have been recently renovated, and severely sloped greens from back to front.

The smaller of the two, it plays to 6,600 yards and is a par-72 course that is better set for a little fun which I was entertained to along with the spectacular views that surrounded me. All skill levels will enjoy playing on this course. This breathtaking and stimulating golf course is just a few steps away from such amenities as a driving range, putting area, a short game area, a golf shop, and Traditions Cafe.

The big boy of the two courses and the newer of the two - The Resort Course - is a Ted Robinson design that debuted in 1995. Fitted with rolling terrain that I welcomed, well placed bunkers, exciting waterscapes, and tremendous mountain views of the San Jacinto Mountains with four sets of trees bring life to the course. This desert linked golf course is a well known Ted Robinson course here in the Palm Springs Area. It is over 6,700 yards that call for a 72 to make par.

Golf Digest rated Tahquitz Creek Golf Course as "One of the Best Places to Play." And I recommend taking advantage of the variety of packages they have for Golf or vacation.

If you are a golfer and enjoy not only the scenery of the desert, but a fair and challenging golf experience the Tahquitz Creek Golf Resort is the place for you.

Tahquitz Creek Golf Resort
1885 Golf Club Drive
Palm Springs, CA 92264

Phone: 760-328-1005

For discounts and deals on hotels, restaurants, and attractions in Palm Springs, CA, visit

Rancho Mirage, CA: Sunnylands, the Walter Annenberg Estate

sunnylands walter annenberg rancho mirage
If you are looking to take in historic estates, wonderful gardens and other fine works that express another time period, Sunnylands is the place for you.

Located in the heart of Rancho Mirage among a variety of sights, Sunnylands is the former estate of Ambassador Walter Annenberg, founder and publisher of such magazines as TV Guide, Seventeen and the Philadephia Inquirer.

At Sunnylands you can not only get a taste of history, but in addition there are activities to engage in as well as feed the tummy and quench the thirst. Equipped with tour shuttles to take you all over the grounds of this oasis in the desert, Sunnylands is a smoke free environment.

Boarding one of the tour shuttles, I took a seat and embarked on one of their guided 90 minute tours. I was quick to observe the diverse historic homes and grounds that exist in the area and the flavor each represents. The historic homes and the stories of their former residents, transported me back in time and allowed me to get feel for the way it was when this property was in its heyday. If you are brand new to the area and you want to get some background, this is a mandatory stop loaded with information on who was here and how they lived.

Sunnylands has been called one of the outstanding mid-size art museums and I can certainly see why. Its grounds and layout lived up to their billing. Sunnylands has on display collections and exhibits from when people like former president Ronald Reagan met Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. There are also mementos from when past presidents discussed foreign policy. There are also personal items of Walter and Leonore Annenberg, including an exhibit of when they conceived such programs as a $50 million donation to the United Negro College Fund.

Surrounded by all this history, I couldn't help but think about the debates that took place in the rooms and floors that I walked.

Sunnylands makes it relative easy to experience its wonders as it is free to the public and has free parking. The guided tours, however, must be made in advance and they cost $35 to $45 per person depending on the time of the year.

If you are interested in taking a trip back to the past and see how the captains of industry, president's and dignitaries lived a trip to Sunnylands is a must for your next vacation to Palm Spring and the surrounding desert cities.

37977 Bob Hope Drive
Rancho Mirage, California 92270

For discounts and deals on hotels, restaurants, and attractions in Palm Springs, CA, visit

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Santa Rosa, CA: Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center

charles m schulz museumFor many years, the Peanuts comic strips of Charles M. Schulz never had a proper home in Sonoma County, the place where Schulz called hom for almost 40 years.

Until now.

Opened in 2002, the mission of the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center is to preserve, display, and interpret the art of Charles M. Schulz. The 27,000+ square-foot museum offers 6,000 square feet of gallery space showcasing original comic strips and memorabilia.

Visitors can enjoy outdoor gardens and exhibits including the Snoopy Labyrinth and the famous, "Kite-Eating Tree". There is a 100-seat theater displaying animated specials and documentaries, and a hands-on activities center.

As the 50th anniversary of Peanuts drew closer, it seemed clear that a museum was needed to celebrate the life and work Schulz. The vision for the Museum fell on the shoulders of local cartoon historian, Mark Cohen, along with Schulz's wife Jeannie, and Schulz's longtime friend and attorney, Edwin Anderson.

Schulz's enthusiasm for the Museum increased in 1997 after seeing the inspired and playful creations by artist and designer Yoshiteru Otani for the Snoopy Town shops in Japan. Sparky and Jeannie agreed that Otani could bring an element of artistic whimsy to the new Museum that would balance and complement the comic artwork.

This was all the encouragement the three friends needed to move ahead. A newly-formed Board of Directors developed the Schulz Museum's Mission Statement, chose an architect and contractor, and selected a location, with Schulz's approval of the plans at each stage.

The Museum could have been located anywhere due to the worldwide popularity of the Peanuts comic strip. But the particular location on the corner of Hardies Lane, was chosen because the last 30 years of Schulz's life was centered here—around his art studio, the Redwood Empire Ice Arena (Snoopy's Home Ice), and this Santa Rosa neighborhood.

The Charles M. Schulz Museum is located 50 minutes north of San Francisco by car on Highway 101. The Museum is located at 2301 Hardies Lane, Santa Rosa, California, 95403.

Weekdays Monday thru Friday (except Tuesdays*) 11am – 5pm
Saturday & Sunday 10am – 5pm
Closed Tuesdays*
*Open everyday throughout the summer (Memorial Day through Labor Day)

Free – Museum Members, Children 3 and under
$5.00 – Children 4-18, college students with valid I.D. card, and Seniors 62+
$10.00 – Adults

For more information consult the Museum web site:

Oakhurst, CA: Children's Museum of the Sierra

childrens museum of the sierra
Located in Oakhurst, California, 24 miles south of the entrance to Yosemite National Park, is the latest "fascination station." The 4,000 square foot museum is packed with a variety of activities to occupy the hands and minds of young people of all ages.

Open year round, the Children's Museum Of The Sierra offers young people (ages 2-12) and their families hands-on exhibits and programs designed to encourage visitors to learn by doing, imagining, creating and making choices.

With a draw of 1,000 visitors monthly, the museum serves local residents and tourists that visit Yosemite National Park.

The museum operates under the auspices of the Educational Enhancement Foundation, a private nonprofit organization (classified as a 501(c) 3 by the IRS.

Funds are generated by private contributions and earned income from membership, admission fees, grants, gift shop sales and special events. The museum development and exhibit design is provided by devoted and generous volunteers who have a passion for our museum and enhancing the lives of children.

Founded in 1995 by a group of parents and individuals interested in bringing specialized programs to young people of the mountain community, the museum teaches scientific principles allowing children to learn about the world around them through dramatic play and artistic expression.

As children interact with exhibit components, there is an opportunity to learn elementary occupational behaviors through imaginative play. This play builds an awareness of potential career opportunities.

Children's Museum of the Sierra
49269 Golden Oak Drive, Suite 104
Oakhurst, CA 93644

Telephone: (559) 658-5656

Hours of operation:

Winter Hours: ( Mid-Sept through Mid-June.)
Tuesday through Saturday
10 a.m.- 4p.m.
1 p.m. - 4 p.m.

Summer Hours: ( Mid- June through Mid-Sept.)
Tuesday through Saturday
10 a.m.- 5 p.m.


$4: Per person. Children under 2 admitted FREE.
$3: Seniors 60+
$1: Pre-arranged educational groups of ten children or more.