“…Open up that Golden Gate! California, here I come!”
For a century, visitors heading for the Golden State (visitcalifornia.com) have hummed that jaunty tune. But stretching 900 miles from north to south and 350 miles wide, this is more like a country than a state. Where else has such variety? Glorious ocean beaches and snow-capped mountains; the USA’s lowest elevation and the world’s tallest trees; torrid desert and lush rainforest; buzzing multi-cultural cities and thrilling amusement parks: California has it all – and more.
In the past two years, new attractions have sprung up, from museums and theme parks to hotels and restaurants. As in Britain, staycations have come into their own, with locals discovering backyard gems, from northern California’s boho towns and deep wilderness to alluring offshore islands, reached only by ferry. Do as Californians are doing. Recharge your batteries at natural mineral hot spring spas; fish for trout in rushing mountain streams; ride out on a ranch holiday. Tick off bucket list items. Follow California’s open roads in a top-down convertible, on a Harley, or in a motorhome. Cycle through vineyards, golf where the pros play, or get close to gigantic whales. California cuisine has long promoted “local” and “seasonal”; today, chefs in ethnic restaurants are creating authentic dishes to expand taste palates.
In California, history has a Spanish accent. Celebrating its 250th anniversary this year, the San Luis Obispo mission (missionsanluisobispo.org) is one of 21 that dot what is now Highway 101. The more-recent past includes colourful characters, such as media mogul William Randolph Hearst, whose opulent mansion, Hearst Castle (hearstcastle.org), has reopened after renovation. And then, there are the movies. Put aside time to explore the new and comprehensive Academy Museum of Motion Pictures (academymuseum.org) in Los Angeles. Check out locations, such as San Diego, setting for Tom Cruise’s biggest box office success Top Gun: Maverick, as well as his original 1986 Top Gun hit.