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Sutro Bath Ruins SanFransciscoDays.com photoSutro Bath Ruins San Franscisco Days.com photo
Ten New Reasons to Visit California

These destinations make great, unique alternatives to your typical trip to California



Heading to California? Tired of Disney, Hollywood and Knott’s Berry Farm? The following are ten brand new attractions that have opened up in the state as of 2013. If you are looking for something more than the glamor (and politics) of movie sets, celebrities and roadside attractions give any of these alternative activities a shot. You may see California in an entirely different light.

Fun for all ages

Lands End Lookout

This helpful spot is the visitor center of Northwestern San Francisco. As the name implies it offers a great view of the town as well as lovely nature trails like the Coastal Trail along the edge of the city and grassy picnic parks.

If you get the chance to explore these natural settings see what the Sutro Baths ruins are all about. There is also a garden adjacent to the ruins part of the Sutro Historic District. By stopping at the center and traveling through the some of the guided landscape (take the Palace of the Legion of Honor, for instance) visitors get to learn about the natural and cultural history of San Francisco. Other sites include El Camino Del Mar Trail, USS San Francisco Memorial (a World War II cruiser used in the Battle of Guadalcanal in 1942) and the West Fort Miley.

For more information visit Lands End Lookout.

Tongva Park Tim Street Porter photoTongva Park Tim Street Porter photoTongva Park

Once a parking lot this restored ecosystem is now home to many gardens, plant sanctuaries, rolling hills and fun paths to explore this vast park located in Santa Monica. Discovery Hill is a playground and learning center for kids to “discover” preserved and maintained exotic plants and rare flowers. This section also boasts more trees than any other part of Tongva Park.

Live performances such as concerts and speeches are often held here usually at the Kenser Grove Square. This beautiful and very large park is free and open to the public from 6a to11p. Dogs are welcome and encouraged. Many benches line the paths for a nice break and the park is not without public restrooms in discrete areas to maintain the natural beauty of Tongva.

For more information visit Tongva Park.

Attractions for Kids

Monterey Mirror Mazes and Lazer Challenge

Found in Cannery Row this kid friendly pit stop is basically a psychedelic house of mirrors. They offer a “Lazer Challenge” to speed through the mirrors without blocking any laser beams set up through out the hall. During the Halloween season Monterey Mirrors presents a haunted mirror house to keep things interesting.

The company provides a “team building” package where customers can help tailor their own event with applicable trophies and strategically chosen groups or teams. The Mirror house is also marketed as a great facility for kids’ birthday parties. This could be a nice alternative to birthdays at Chuck E. Cheese or a skating rink (or the bowling alley if you come from a very small town like I do.)



For more information visit Monterey Mirror Mazes

Highway 1 Golf, Games and Grub Center

In league with the Monterey house of Mirrors Highway 1 is a glow in the dark miniature golf course. Options include 3D glasses, more team building packages, and an arcade to win prizes. The food served here, geared more to kids, is the equivalent of concession food or a state fair.

Hot dogs, French fries, fountain drinks, and sizable fried pastries are the commonplace menu items (my parents would feel right at home with all that food reminiscent of quaint Southern carnivals.) Like its sister attraction Highway 1 is also accommodating for children’s birthday parties.
Mirror Maze photoMirror Maze photo

For more information visit Golf, Games and Grub Center

Foodies’ Paradise

Empire Napa
This restaurant is named in honor of the first commercial building of Napa County built in 1848, the Empire Saloon and the Empire State building in New York City. It is because of this factor the restaurant is an eclectic mixed atmosphere of an old fashioned Western saloon reminiscent of Napa’s native charm and the cosmopolitan sophistication of New York City.

This place becomes a lounge after dinner (see cosmopolitan sophistication of New York City) and the menu is divided into these sections; Nosh, Vegetarian, Pescatarian, Carnivore and Sweet Tooth. They have something for everyone here. The Sweet Tooth portion caught my attention.

For more information visit Empire Napa
Jordan Estate Tour. Matt Armendariz photoJordan Estate Tour. Matt Armendariz photo

Lulu's Kitchen

Another Napa restaurant, part of 1313 Main, this location features locally farmed food and wine in support of the farmers to keep delicious, fresh food on their tables. The dishes and ingredients used are very seasonally oriented to the point where the menu is constantly changing.

However there seems to be an emphasis on wine over food. Some customers have expressed the ever-changing and “over artistic” creative menu as challenging to enjoy. They feel it strays away from a cohesive theme of what kind of food they are serving. Customers never know what to expect when they eat here.

For more information visit Lulu’s Kitchen at 1313 Main

Stone and Embers Restaurant

Yet another restaurant, this time in Mendocino County, was started by Chef Patrick Meany. He was previously a chef at a handful of other artisan cuisine restaurants that thrived in California.

Meany crafts his own breads, vinegars, sea salts and does his own pickling, preserving and fermenting here at Stone and Embers. The niche of Stone and Embers is the wood burning stove and artisan pizzas. Previous customers say this is a good place for lunch outdoors. The brunch however is new and still working out kinks in the design.

For more information visit Stone and Embers
Jordan Pavilion. Matt Armendariz photoJordan Pavilion. Matt Armendariz photo
Jordan Vineyard and Winery

Although this attraction is not necessarily new it does offer new aspects of the estate. The vineyard was started in 1976 with a vision of producing world class Cabernet, Sauvignon and Chardonnay from Sonoma County. The county itself is home to many farmers who are descendants of Italian grape growers.

Jordan Estate is praised for its consistency of vintage wines and cool climate as a reflection of its European style leanings. They have started to offer limited guests dinner parties on the property. The Sunset Supper at Vista Point allows guests to dine on the highest hilltop among grapevines with a multi course meal and of course a selection of Jordan wines. The Jordan Estate has several more events year round.

For more information visit Jordan Estate

Farm Folk Culinary Journey

This new branch of the Jordan estate whisks visitors to weekend stay at the Healdburg Hotel while not touring remote corners of the property.  Customers board a Mercedes coach to view places like the vegetable garden, livestock corral and bass pond.  The tour includes wine tasting (obviously) and a farm focused dinner at award winning Creek’s Kitchen.

Of course these are only a small sample of what the great state of California has to offer. Any Californian will tell you there is much more to this chaotic state than meets the eye or what is perceived through mainstream media. The breath taking natural views and internationally influenced culture of the California natives and quaint neighborhoods are too often overlooked for the overrated. These little known treasures can take you away from the insanity of it all and ground you.

For even more fun things to do in California click here
Jamie Kimmel



Jamie Kimmel is currently an anthropology major at UMass Amherst.  As a very active member of the belly dance club and SPIRALS, she loves all things magickal and artistic. She writes about both of these things in more detail on her blog IamWiccanHearMeRoar.






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