After the winter rains end, California’s hillside grasses turn golden, their color intensifying in late afternoon sun. It gives credence to the idea that California’s nickname “The Golden State” comes from the color of its hills. It takes a little getting used to if you’re from other parts of the country, but after living here a few years, I find the golden summer landscape one of the most appealing.
What to Expect
- Summer is a great time to dine outdoors, but if you’re anywhere near the coast, bring a jacket. It can cool off faster (and get colder) than you might expect.
- Summer is the time for farmers’ markets offering fruits and vegetables, all grown locally. Especially good are strawberries from around Watsonville or Oxnard and stone fruits (peaches, plums, apricots and the like) from the central valley.
- While the claim that Mark Twain once said: “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco” isn’t true, the sentiment is. Bring plenty of warm layers to San Francisco’s Fourth of July fireworks (up to 3 or 4 sweatshirts deep) or you’ll wish you did.
- Wildflower blooms continue into early summer in higher elevations and in some years, you’ll find them blooming all summer along roadsides in Yosemite and Sequoia.
What to do
FAMILY FUN AT DISNEYLAND
Conventional wisdom holds that California is for the young-and who are we to argue? The state is chock-full of attractions for kids of all ages, especially the under-18 set. From Disneyland, the granddaddy of all theme parks, to world-class aquariums, zoos, historical museums, and outdoor activities, California will keep your family engaged and hopping.
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New is cool, but a big part of Disneyland’s charm is it’s ability to keep refreshing favorites, like the classic submarine ride, now updated to be the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage. Longtime winner Pirates of the Caribbean has injected some movie-hipness by adding a goofy, dreadlocked Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp style) popping up unexpectedly throughout the ride. Always popular Star Tours ride has new twists and turns, and end-of-the-night fireworks displays that change throughout the year.
SAN DIEGO’S BIRCH AQUARIUM
Explore the wonders of the underwater world at Birch Aquarium. Visit the aquarium during Family Days and enjoy arts and crafts, science, and engaging activities for all ages in programs and special events that promotes family learning and togetherness.
MONTEREY BAY AQUARIUM
The Monterey Bay Aquarium is one of those destinations that charms everyone who walks through its great glass doors. Here you can watch rescued sea otters swim, play, and groom in their naturalized exhibit. See and learn about the worlds of countless fish species, as well as amphibians, birds, invertebrates, octopi, and reptiles. Watch aquarium staff feed penguins and sea otters, and experience other creatures as they interact in extraordinarily realistic underwater environments that simulate the adjacent Monterey Bay and beyond. Kids love the interactive touch pool filled with starfish, sea cucumbers, and other ocean creatures. The bat ray exhibit, where you can feel the velvety softness of a bat ray as it flys by, is always a hit.
The aquarium also offers a variety of special tours, including a behind-the-scenes look at how the aquarium’s remarkable filtration systems work to keep all the resident creatures alive and well. Another fun tour lets you follow a staff member on morning rounds, which may include feeding and interacting with some of the animals on site. Hungry? There’s an exceptional self-service cafeteria, as well as a sit-down restaurant focusing on fresh ingredients and sustainable seafood.
GET BIG THRILLS AT UNIVERSAL STUDIOS HOLLYWOOD
Get a glimpse of Hollywood magic at Universal Studios Hollywood, one of California’s most unforgettable theme parks. From rides to special tours, the park lets you get a backstage pass into the world of moviemaking, as well delivering a heavy dose of adrenaline via a powerhouse collection of sensory-overload thrill rides, including Transformers: The Ride-3D. The park’s classic tram tour has gotten a snazzy upgrade with state-of-the-art HD monitors and Jimmy Fallon as your techno-tour guide. Cruise through real movie sets to learn about special effects and other insider insights into moviemaking. Cruise along Wisteria Lane from Desperate Housewives, get caught between giant spiders and King Kong, and be spooked by the likes of Norman at the Bates Motel or a certain mega-shark from one of the scariest movies ever made. The regular Studio Tour is included with park admission.
Whale Watching Cruise
Newport Harbor and its surroundings offer deep nutrient rich waters which attract all types of marine creatures. Come aboard this 2 1/2 hour cruise for your chance to view a wide variety of whales – plus dolphins, seals, and more. Experience the beauty of the sea’s gentle giants while enjoying the beautiful Southern California coastline.
Hollywood Stars Home Tour
See where the stars live, shop, and hang out in L.A.’s secluded hills on the stately streets of Beverly Hills. Air-conditioned mini-buses, complete with high windows ensuring that everyone has a great view, go where regular buses can’t.
Deep Sea Sport Fishing
Splash through the waters off the southern California coast on a deep-sea sport fishing adventure. Cast a line from the modern fishing craft and anticipate a bite from some of the areas largest fish.