On the bluffs in San Francisco overlooking the Golden Gate and the Marin Headlands, there’s a place that comes upon most visitors as a surprise. The popular walking path here on Lands End winds around the city’s northwest corner high above the sea, narrow and wooded in places, open and flat in others, with expansive views over the water. But sitting atop a flat outcrop far below is a scatter of brown stones that takes on a pattern when you look closely, and you wonder if you’re seeing things.
A side path will get you down there and when you come around the last bend you see that you’re right, the stones have been placed to form a labyrinth similar to those of famous European cathedrals. Step inside and take a slow, meandering walk to the center, where you can take deep breaths of the clean Pacific air and contemplate your good fortune to be standing at this magical place on the edge of a continent.
There are many surprises like this on the pathways and roads of California. Take a turn in wine country and you might discover a boutique winery you hadn’t heard about. Climb over a mountain pass and have your breath stolen by the beauty of the landscape before you. Drive through the forest in the northern reaches and encounter trees seemingly older and larger than time itself. Drop into a roadside café and learn that it’s as good as anything starred by Michelin.
On the coast, you can discover hidden coves and pristine beaches where you can surf, kayak, swim or paddle board. In the cities, catch world-class opera, symphony, jazz or theater. Head to the desert for restful spas, dramatic landscapes and surprising museums, not to mention one of the country’s top music festivals.
California is San Diego’s summer sun, Los Angeles’ entertainment glitz, San Francisco’s famous bridges and Silicon Valley’s technological innovation. It’s also Death Valley National Park, Lake Tahoe, Yosemite National Park, the volcanic peak of Mount Shasta, the fertile Central Valley that feeds the nation. In short, it’s everything you could hope it to be, all linked by the network of long and winding roads that take you wherever you want to go and are part of the adventure.
In these pages we help you prepare, with profiles of the state’s 14 tourism regions, essays on history, cuisine, museums, theme parks and many other topics, plus resource pages with information on visitors bureaus, driving distances, California Welcome Centers and more.
As you make your plans for a trip to the Golden State, you’ll have a lot to look forward to. California offers a profound richness of experience, and much like the center of that labyrinth on the bluffs in San Francisco, it’s all within easy reach, peppered with pleasant surprises along the way.