Cal­i­for­nia: Hid­den gems of the Golden state

It’s the home of Hol­ly­wood glitz and glam­our but Cal­i­for­nia’s au­then­tic at­trac­tions are lin­ing up to sur­prise your clients, says Jes­sica Pook. Here’s some that de­serve their place on any West Coast itin­er­ary

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Fort Bragg’s glass beach

Ven­ture three hours north of San Fran­cisco to where the pound­ing waves of the Pa­cific col­lide with the coast­line of Fort Bragg, leav­ing in its wake a glit­ter­ing glass beach. This rain­bow shore shouldn’t re­ally be there: it’s the re­sult of dis­carded glass, once dumped into the ocean but now washed back hav­ing been pol­ished by Mother Na­ture. The beach is best seen glis­ten­ing in the sun­shine from the cliffs above. There’s also a Sea Glass Mu­seum to ex­plore, op­er­ated by re­tired sea cap­tain Cass For­ring­ton. fort­bragg.com

Walk amongst gi­ants

Visit the largest liv­ing things on earth – se­quoia trees (or gi­ant red­woods) – in Yosemite Na­tional Park, the only place in the world where these ma­jes­tic trees grow na­tively. There are three se­quoia groves within the park: the larger Mari­posa Grove, Tuolumne Grove and Merced Grove. Tuol­ume Grove is a less-vis­ited trail and houses trees that are al­most 3,000 years old. The hike con­sists of a fourk­ilo­me­tre round-trip and of­fers the chance to walk through the ‘tun­nel tree’. Open from June to Oc­to­ber, the chang­ing colours in Au­tumn is a ‘must see’. nps.gov

Wine tast­ing in Sacra­mento

Al­though sur­rounded by over 200 vine­yards, Sacra­mento is of­ten over­shad­owed by the more pop­u­lar Napa or Sonoma on Cal­i­for­nia’s wine trail – but be­ing un­der the radar has its ad­van­tages. Many of these vine­yards of­fer tast­ings for free or for a min­i­mal fee and vis­i­tors get in­ti­mate ac­cess to the wine-mak­ing process and can of­ten speak to the wine­mak­ers in per­son. The Old Sugar Mill of­fers lo­cal wines in 15 tast­ing rooms, and af­ter your clients can learn all about the district’s Gold Rush his­tory in The Old Town. city­of­sacra­mento.org

Trendy North Park

San Diego has 17 dis­tinct neigh­bor­hoods to ex­plore. Ven­ture away from the crowds of the Gaslamp Quar­ter or Carls­bad to trendy North Park. It’s a hit with mil­len­ni­als who In­sta­gram their day from brunch spots like the Smok­ing Goat and Coin Op, which of­fer calorific fare such as duck­fat truf­fle fries and deep-fried Oreos. Then there’s craft beer pubs, farm­ers mar­kets and bou­tique shops. An even more lively scene awaits at the Ob­ser­va­tory North Park, San Diego’s new­est venue – ac­tu­ally a re­stored Art Deco the­atre that hosts live mu­sic, the­atre and com­edy seven days a week. sandiego.org

Starry nights

Greater Palm Springs is made up of nine cities and its ap­peal stretches from out­door pur­suits such as hik­ing, bik­ing and horse-rid­ing to the glitz of the an­nual Coachella Val­ley Mu­sic and Arts Fes­ti­val in In­dio, where celebs gather for a week­end of posh par­ty­ing.

But there’s star spot­ting of a dif­fer­ent kind just an hour away that re­ally does re­quire a sleep­less night. Joshua Tree Na­tional Park has been des­ig­nated as a In­ter­na­tional Dark Sky Park, which means it pos­sesses ‘ex­cep­tional qual­ity starry nights’ and a ‘noc­tur­nal en­vi­ron­ment that is specif­i­cally pro­tected’.

Vis­i­tors can camp un­der some of the dark­est nights in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia for a glimpse of the Milky Way, or join a ranger-led night sky pro­gramme for an ex­pert guided tour of the con­stel­la­tions. There’s a Night Sky Fes­ti­val each No­vem­ber which fea­tures an as­tropho­tog­ra­phy work­shop, plus morn­ing and night as­tron­omy ses­sions. nps.gov/jotr

Let off some steam

Founded in 1902, Big Basin Red­woods State Park is Cal­i­for­nia’s old­est state park and fea­tures 80 miles of hik­ing trails, thou­sand-year-old red­woods and spec­tac­u­lar wa­ter­falls.

One of the most scenic ways to see the area is aboard an open-air Roar­ing Camp Rail­roads steam engine as it clacks its way around an el­e­vated track through the for­est. The 19th cen­tury train winds to the sum­mit of Bear Moun­tain while the con­duc­tor nar­rates the his­tory of Roar­ing Camp, the rail­road and the for­est.

Chil­dren can also try their hand at gold pan­ning or wan­der the Old West-style grounds at the part-theme park, part­mu­seum.roar­ing­camp.com

“Tuol­ume Grove is a lessvis­ited trail and houses trees that are al­most 3,000 years old!”

Spend the night in a wagon

For those look­ing for a unique ex­pe­ri­ence in Yosemite Na­tional Park, a night spent glamp­ing in an Old West-style Con­estoga Wagon is a great way to get back to na­ture with­out giv­ing up home com­forts. The air­con­di­tioned and heated wag­ons sleep up to six peo­ple and start from $139 a night. yosemitepinesrv.com

Visit Capi­tola Vil­lage

Founded over 135 years ago, Capi­tola Vil­lage in Santa Cruiz is the Pa­cific coast’s old­est sea­side re­sort. Won­der the bright­ly­coloured bayfront prom­e­nade, en­joy a day on the beach, duck into the shops and res­tau­rants or visit Bar­getto Win­ery, the long­est con­tin­u­ally op­er­at­ing win­ery in the coun­try. vis­it­san­tacruz.org

“Vis­i­tors can camp un­der some of the dark­est nights in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia for a glimpse of the Milky Way”

Be the fire mas­ter

Feel like you’ve stepped onto the set of Cal­i­for­nian teen drama The O.C. by spend­ing an evening sat around a fire pit in Hunt­ing­ton Beach. This laid-back surf town is one of the few places in Cal­i­for­nia where vis­i­tors can build their own fire and en­joy that out­door beach life­style well into the evening. There are 500-plus con­crete pits and the fire rings are avail­able free on a first-come-first served ba­sis. They’re al­lowed to blaze on un­til 21.30, pro­vid­ing a ro­man­tic sun­set-watch­ing op­por­tu­nity at a low price! Throw a cou­ple of gooey s’mores and a beer into the mix and you have a clas­sic SoCal date. sur­fc­i­tyusa.com

Pier 39 to Oak­land

Most fa­mous for its sun­bathing sea lions bask­ing on K-Dock, Pier 39 is a must when in San Fran­cisco. But once you’ve ex­hausted the abun­dant din­ing, shop­ping and street en­ter­tain­ment, take the op­por­tu­nity to hop on a ferry from Pier 41 to Oak­land.

This city used to live in San Fran’s shadow but now prob­a­bly trumps the Bay City in terms of its di­verse food scene, with many of its res­tau­rants top­ping ‘best of’ lists na­tion­wide. Close by, Lake Mer­rit pro­vides an ur­ban oa­sis with boats avail­able for hire. Red­wood Re­gional Park is also just a few miles from busy down­town Oak­land, trans­port­ing you to a canopy of tow­er­ing gi­ants. vis­i­toak­land.com

Get thrifty in Cat City

Lo­cated be­tween Palm Springs and Ran­cho Mi­rage, Cathe­dral City (or ‘Cat City’) of­fers pretty parks, bou­tique shop­ping and a num­ber of golf cour­ses with spec­tac­u­lar views.

Those with a love for vin­tage can in­dulge in the mix of thrift shops and an­tique bou­tiques along High­way 111, while for a fun se­lec­tion of vin­tage cloth­ing, home decor and quirky keep­sakes rec­om­mend retro-in­spired Won­derama on Date Palm Drive. If the kids get bored, a de­tour to the Foun­tain of Life in Town Square, which dou­bles as a ‘spray­ground’, will help.

Each No­vem­ber, Cathe­dral City plays host to an an­nual hot air bal­loon fes­ti­val. This event sees the sky fill with colour­ful dots as hun­dreds of bal­loons take flight.

Ad­mire it from be­low or take in the views of the sur­round­ing desert from your very own bas­ket. There’s also a plethora of street food to sam­ple on and live mu­si­cal acts per­form­ing over the course of the three-day event. cathe­dral­city.co.uk

“Hunt­ing­ton Beach is one of the few places in Cal­i­for­nia where vis­i­tors can still build their own fire”

Lit­tle Corona del Mar

Ex­plore the rock for­ma­tions at Lit­tle Corona del Mar, a se­cluded beach in Or­ange County with tidal pools and a rocky coast­line that’s great for crab spot­ting. The arch­way makes for a unique sun­set spot and dare­dev­ils can be seen cliff div­ing from the jagged edges. vis­it­new­port­beach.com

Pinecrest Lake

A stun­ning body of wa­ter sur­rounded by dense for­est, Pinecrest Lake, near Sonora, is the per­fect place to while away a day. Wa­ter ac­tiv­i­ties in­clude sail­ing, swim­ming and kayak­ing, while on land there are hik­ing and horse rid­ing routes to ex­plore. The lake is lo­cated just off High­way 108. pinecrest­lakeca.com 

“Those with a love for vin­tage can in­dulge in the thrift shops along High­way 111”

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