Updating your California travel plans for 2020

Updating your California travel bucket list for 2020

It’s year-end, and time to consider where your travels will take you in 2020. Let’s look at California from several vantage points.

How about travels for outdoors enthusiasts? With nine national parks and 280 state parks, California is, arguably, the most scenic state in the nation; certainly, in the lower 48. Even the most seasoned traveler will not have seen all of the spectacular destinations within six or seven hours of San Joaquin County. In addition to the exceedingly popular parks like Yosemite and Sequoia, as well as the Lake Tahoe and Bay Area parks, scores of lesser-visited but stunning destinations present themselves.

Don’t overlook a trip east over the Sierra, intersecting Highway 395 and head south. You’ll find historic Bodie, one of the west’s most impressive and intriguing ghost towns, Mono Lake with its eerie tufa columns along the shore, the lively resort area of Mammoth Lakes, Manzanar, where Japanese-Americans were sadly imprisoned during World War II and Death Valley National Park. It’s a little early to predict, but with lots of rain in the last month, the wildflower bloom in the desert around Death Valley may be spectacular in the coming months.

Mono Lake’s eerie tufa columns rise off shore, casting images like ancient sail vessel.

California’s Central Coast, that stretch of Highway 1 that heads south out of Monterey, is a worthy destination. Navigate the hallowed Big Sur area, cruise past San Simeon and Hearst Castle sprawling regally in the coastal range, to San Luis Obispo. On your return, catch Carrizo Plain National Monument for another wildflower bloom destination. What’s not to love?

Hearst Castle lies regally in the coastal range above San Simeon.

Don’t overlook our state’s less frequently visited national parks, including Redwoods, Pinnacles, Lassen and Channel Islands. Each are only a 3 to 5 hour drive and were designated national parks for inspiring terrain, unique geographical features and other-worldly flora and fauna. 

Machete Ridge in Pinnacles National Park, the remains of a volcano that was birthed in the Los Angeles area, and is moving slowly north a few inches each year on earthquake faults.

“City chic”, exploring cityscapes: While not overlooking the emerging cool vibes coming from Stockton and other cities in San Joaquin County, Sacramento, the state’s capital, continues to blossom into a high-class destination. With a dozen history and cultural museums, the city’s urban vibe emerging around the new Golden 1 Arena, connecting to the cool Mid-town District with scores of first-rate restaurants, theater and growing brew-pub scene, it’s a fine place to visit for young to older tourists. With West Sacramento, spurred by the Giant’s minor-league Rivercats team, developing the side of the river across the venerable Tower Bridge, and the growing interest  in soccer with Sacramento Republic FC team soon to gain major league status, the city will continue to grow with new entertainment opportunities and fun.

Likewise, take a fresh look at Oakland and San Francisco; an eco-friendly way to see those towns is to park your car at Jack London Square, walk the Square’s waterfront, then take a ferry over to San Francisco’s historic Ferry Building, where historic trollies can take you the length of the Embarcadero, allowing access to Pier 39, Fisherman’s Wharf, or, headed south, Oracle Ballpark and the sparkling new Chase Center arena and so much more.

The Balclutha, historic sailing ship, and tugboat Eppleton Hall,
at the Hyde Street Pier, San Francisco.
Crowd makes its way to Golden 1 Center in downtown Sacramento.

Looking south, consider a visit to the Newport Coast, from Long Beach south to San Clemente, for a taste of sun, sand, the vibes of the Beach Boys, a wonderful restaurant and entertainment scene, and both old but classy motels up to five-star resorts. A few days in the sun-splashed area of Newport Beach or Laguna Beach will have you planning for a return visit.

San Clemente Pier, with one of our favorite restaurants, Fisherman’s, along Newport Coast.

Cultural exploration: while Stockton offers the Haggin Museum, downtown murals and art galleries around town; just 45 miles north Sacramento beckons, with the Crocker Museum, Mid-town District and a host of galleries. If an advocate of agricultural tourism, the San Joaquin Historical Museum in Micke Grove Park offers an in-depth look at agricultural practices that shaped San Joaquin County; the California Agriculture Museum in Woodland will greatly expand your knowledge.

Trains and railroads changed the state and the west in the latter half of the 19th century; the California Railroad Museum in Sacramento, the Folsom Railroad Museum and Railtown 1897 State Historic Park in Jamestown will hone your rail appetite.  Autos played a part in a similar landscape transformation, hence, check out the California Auto Museum in Sacramento to see the evolution from Henry Ford’s Quadracycle in 1896 up to modern electric and hydrogen fuel cell cars, with 130 historic and vintage cars in between.

Western Pacific locomotive 913 prepares to board passengers from the
California Railroad Museum in Old Sacramento.

Build a trip around historic exploration: Parks like Indian Grinding Rocks State Park in Pine Grove or the California State Indian Museum, Sacramento (next to Sutter’s Fort) celebrate the history of early Native Americans. From Gold Rush history starting with Marshall Gold Discovery State Park in Coloma, to exploring the state’s historic covered bridges or early Spanish missions along the El Camino Real, blaze a trail that will refresh your knowledge of how  the state burst upon the national scene, accelerated by discovery of gold in 1848.

Remember spontaneity and fun of quick road trips: Keep your horizons open for short or longer vacation breaks and road trips. Tour portions of Gold Rush Highway 49, or the historic Lincoln Highway that came through Galt, Woodbridge, Lodi, Stockton and Tracy, in targeted segments over weekend road-trips. Get your kids to identify their favorite quirky destination or feature about our marvelous state, and, get exploring! Next week, ideas for the western US and Canada.

Replica of Sutter’s Mill, where gold was discovered in 1848, part of the
Marshall Gold Discovery State Park in Coloma, CA.

For more information: visit local visitor’s bureaus or park websites.

Contact Tim at tviall@msn.com or follow at recordnet.com/travelblog. Happy travels in your world!

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