If you want to win that “Parent of the Year” award for 2012 keep reading. Luckily for you I’m 45 going on 12, which means I spend a lot of time goofing around on weekends, checking out new places to play in Northern California. So here’s a round-up of some fun and affordable things to do with the family this summer, and a great excuse to pack up the car and take a road trip to California’s Wine Country.
Things to do in California
Looking for an easy, breezy romantic getaway? Well, picture this: 7.8 miles of sandy beaches, crashing waves, breath-taking views of the Pacific and sea lions, too. The artist enclave of Laguna Beach offers an eclectic fusion of sandy coves, stunning coastal bluffs, delectable treats, high fashion, coated with a surfer cool sheen. Halfway between L.A. and San Diego, Laguna Beach is the ideal choice for lazy walks, impromptu paddleboard lessons and a great opportunity to relax and enjoy one of the most resplendent spots on the California coast.
If you’re looking for something interesting, affordable, and local to do this winter (yes, summer’s really over), Mother Nature is putting on some pretty good free shows this time of year. Some of the best bird watching excursions in the state only take place in the early winter, such as the millions of migrating waterfowl in Sacramento Valley and raptor gatherings at the Marin Headlands. So grab your day-planner right now and carve out a few days for getting outdoors and enjoying a bird watching getaway to one of the top bird-watching spots in Northern California.
Now that summer has officially started, I figured I’d write about one of my favorite family road trips we’d go on every summer when I was a kid: Lake Shasta. As usual we’d pile up the Country Squire station wagon with camping gear and comic books, then head up I-5 in the blistering heat until we reached the Mount Shasta Fish Hatchery, where I’d drop a nickel in the fish-food dispenser and let the pellets fly. And that was just the start of a memorable week of fishing, camping, houseboating, spelunking, exploring, and sneaking sips of beer. So if you haven’t already planned your summer holiday getaway, read on….
by Guest Guru Nancy Geller
If romance is your goal, Ojai is your destination. And it all starts with a sunset. It’s a fleeting occurrence, but sunset in Ojai is just about as stunning as it gets. Twelve miles inland from the Pacific Ocean, the city of Ojai lies in a small valley, north of Ventura and east of Santa Barbara. Since Ojai is aligned with an east-west mountain range, it’s one of few spots on earth that have a “Pink Moment” just as the sun is setting. The vanishing sun creates a ribbon of pink for several minutes on the bluffs at the east end of the Ojai Valley. It is a romantic, rare and resplendent moment that can only happen in Ojai.
by Guest Guru Deborah Passin
I love wine so much I made it my career. On California road trips, I can’t help but seek out some of the state’s more than 100 AVAs (American Viticultural Areas). But just as with my wine, I like balance in my vacation. Sure I do plenty of wine tasting, but I also like to explore the environment, culture and people. That means incorporating hikes and great meals and memorable encounters with locals. When all these parts come together, I have the perfect getaway, such as my recent trip to Carmel Valley.
If you’re still reeling from the tax bill you had to pay on April 15, here’s a chance to at least recoup a little of your hard-earned money. From April 22nd through the 26th the entrance fees to all the national parks in the U.S. will be waived, including Pinnacles, Yosemite, Lassen, and Muir Woods. And because this coincides with Earth Day, several parks are offering free family-oriented programs such as “Junior Ranger Day” (with official Junior Ranger badges and certificates!), ranger-led hikes, and volunteer projects. Think of it as an affordable opportunity for you to be a rock-star parent, aunt, or uncle while enjoying America’s Best Idea—our national parks.
On the weekend of April 20-21, more than one billion people around the globe will participate in Earth Day 2013. Charitable events will be taking place on and around this day throughout the world, and you can be a part of it via the dozens of volunteer opportunities available throughout Northern California that only require a few hours of your time, yet do a world of good. Check out the Earth Day getaways below, then rally your friends and family and help make a difference.
If you’re looking for something interesting and affordable to do this winter, Mother Nature is putting on some pretty good free shows this time of year. Much of the wildlife in Northern California is doing the wild thing, and they don’t care who’s watching. Some of the most fascinating eco-excursions in the state only take place in the winter, such as the monarch butterfly migration to Pacific Grove, millions of migrating waterfowl in Sacramento Valley, and elephant seal mating rituals at Año Nuevo State Reserve (believe me, if you’ve never seen a pair of 2-ton elephant seal bulls fighting over a lady, you’re in for a treat). So grab your day-planner right now and sign yourself up for a Winter Wildlife Watching getaway.
Mention to anyone in Los Angeles that you’re heading over to Catalina Island, and invariably you’ll get this response: “Ooh, I love Catalina! Haven’t been there in, like, 10 years, but I love Catalina!” Well, if you haven’t visited in the last decade or so, it’s definitely time for you to go back. There’s so much to see and do, in such a beautiful, idyllic setting, that you’ll find yourself wondering what kept you away so long.