Unique Places in California

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Most Viewed Off The Beaten Path in California

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    The Pigeon Point Light Station

    by traveldave Updated Oct 16, 2010

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    The Pigeon Point Light Station is one of the many attractions along the Pacific Coast Highway which hugs the coast to the south of San Francisco. It is situated on Pigeon Point, a rocky headland that was named after the Carrier Pigeon, a ship that wrecked here in 1853. Tied with the Point Arena Light in Mendocino County, California at 115 feet (35 meters), the Pigeon Point Light Station is the tallest lighthouse on the West Coast. It is now protected as part of the Pigeon Point Light Station Historic Park, part of the California state-park system. Although many people visit the park, tours of the interior of the lighthouse have been discontinued due to the collapse of brickwork supporting the outside access walkways.

    The lighthouse was built in 1871 to warn ships of a particularly dangerous stretch of coastline. It originally had a light fueled by oil, but that was replaced by a powerful Fresnel lense, manufactured by the Henry-LePaute Company of Paris. The lighthouse has since been deactivated, and the light is turned on only for special occasions. Nowadays, the lighthouse serves as a youth hostel.

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    Pigeon Point Lighthouse

    by SteveOSF Updated Feb 11, 2010

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    Several historic lighthouses are scattered along California’s jagged coastline. One such structure is the Pigeon Point Lighthouse at Pescadero. It is found about halfway between Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz off Highway 1. Take Pigeon Point Road from Highway 1 to get there.

    The Pigeon Point Lighthouse began service in 1872. It helped guide ships along the coastline. The lighthouse is home to a small State Historic Park. Although the lighthouse is not open to the public, the grounds are still open and are free. On the grounds you can see the exterior of the lighthouse, explore the view from the coastal bluffs, and visit a small museum. The museum is free and has exhibits concerning the history of the lighthouse, the lighthouse’s now retired Fresnel lens, and local shipwrecks.

    While traveling the coastal highway, Pigeon Point Lighthouse can make for an interesting stop. Although in my last visit, a considering wind was blowing in from the Ocean. A hostel is located in the former lighthouse keeper's housing.

    Pigeon Point Lighthouse is located at 210 Pigeon Point Road just off Highway 1 at Pescadero.

    Pigeon Point Lighthouse
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    Big Basin Redwoods State Park

    by SteveOSF Updated Dec 20, 2009

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    Big Basin Redwoods State Park contains over 18,000 acres of redwood forest. Established in 1902, it is the oldest California State Park. It is located about 65 miles south of San Francisco and 25 miles northeast of Santa Cruz. The park features hiking trails, campsites, mountain biking, and equestrian trails.

    The elevation of the park ranges from near sea level to over 2,000 feet. The climate is diverse. Cool and humid conditions are found near the ocean and sunny and warm weather is found inland near the ridges.

    The park has over eighty miles of trails. Several waterfalls can be found within the park. A large assortment of wildlife inhabits the park. Big Basin Redwoods State Park is one of the best opportunities to explore ancient redwoods south of San Francisco.

    To reach the park, take Highway 9 from Santa Cruz past the town of Felton. Near the town of Boulder Creek, take Highway 236 to the park. The drive is about 25 miles from Santa Cruz. Alternatively, the Rancho Del Oso coastal unit of the park can be reached from Highway 1 approximately 20 miles north of Santa Cruz.

    At the Highway 1 entrance, a public beach lays across Highway 1 at the parking area. From the coast, a trail will take you deep into the park.

    The Majestic Redwoods of Big Basin Sempervirens Falls A Hiking Trail in Big Basin Redwoods State Park Beach at Big Basin Redwoods Rancho Del Oso at Hwy1 Wetlands at Big Basin Redwoods SP - Rancho Del Oso
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    • Camping

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    The Stones at Oakland Coliseum

    by richiecdisc Updated Oct 15, 2009

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    On my first trip to San Francisco in 1994, I passed through initially coming from the north. Along with reserving spots on the Anchor Brewery tour for a few weeks later, I got some tickets for The Stones at Oakland Coliseum on Halloween. I was a huge Stones fan and it was a great concert. In fact, it was a gas.

    me circa 1994, ready for the Stones
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    California if chock full of...

    by richiecdisc Updated Oct 10, 2009

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    Disc Golf is a sport played much life ball golf. Instead of holes, there are chained baskets. Trees and water hazards work the same way. Instead of a ball and club, you throw flying discs which are smaller, heavier and more beveled than "regular Frisbees" so you can throw then a lot further. I was very into the sport in 1994 and visited over 100 courses around the US.

    California is chock full of great disc golf courses, I especially loved the ones up near the vineyards of Northern California near Ukiah. We did nothing but play Disc Golf while in the L.A. area with the world class La Mirada located right there. By 2008, I had lost all my interest in the sport. I guess the beer won out. ;)

    disc golf basket

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    Anchor Brewing

    by richiecdisc Updated Oct 10, 2009

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    If you're going to San Francisco, besides wearing flowers in your hair, you should make a point to do the brewery tour at Anchor Brewing. This brewery was one of the very first craft brewers to stay back in the early 1980s and was founded by no other than Fritz Maytag of washing machine fame. It seems suds are suds are suds. Their signature beer is Anchor Steam, a throwback to an old California style and named due to the efflorescent quality caused by brewing with a lager yeast at ale temperatures.

    This is VERY popular and must be booked at least a month in advance and with good reason. Home of Anchor Steam and a host of other award winners, it is a picturesque brewery with copper kettles, an entertaining tour, and unlimited sampling for better than an hour at it's conclusion.

    I was coming through San Francisco in 1994 and made my reservation and returned a few weeks later after driving Big Sur and visiting Yosemite and Sequoia National parks. With so many new breweries in town, I did not make it back on my 2005 trip and there was just not enough time to do it when passing through in 2008 either.

    Call ahead at 415.863.8350. Located at 1705 Mariposa St. San Fran.

    Kristin at Anchor Brewing circa 1994
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    Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

    by richiecdisc Updated Oct 10, 2009

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    While a trip to Sierra Nevada Brewing in Chico may not be on the average person's agenda, it was on mine as I made my way to over 120 small breweries in the summer of 1994. It was already a good size regional brewery at the time but it's grown into one of the biggest craft breweries in US history. This is the brewery who invented the style American Pale Ale.

    Chico is a bit out of the way but well worth the effort to visit the brewery in person. Sure, you can find all their beers in supermarkets to beer specialty stores but not all of them on tap. They also carry some specialty beers you won't find anywhere else. When I was there in 1994, the bartender was excellent and my guess is a brewery this successful is not going to go wrong and pick some slug to pour your beers.

    Located at 1075 East 20th St. in Chico, CA.

    Me with more hair than I can remember circa 1994
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    Donner Lake

    by SteveOSF Written Aug 7, 2009

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    Donner Lake is perched in the Sierra Nevada Mountains at Truckee, California near Donner Pass. It is easily accessed from Highway 80. Travelers using this major highway to enter California can easily stop at the lake for a visit.

    Donner Memorial State Park located at Donner Lake is well worth a visit. The park offers typical outdoor activities. However, the park contains a museum with displays and information about the unfortunate Donner Party who tried to cross the Sierras too late in the year and was trapped at Donner Lake for the severe winter of 1846-1847. Many members of the Donner Party perished during that extreme Sierra winter.

    The park includes the Pioneer Monument, built to commemorate those who immigrated to California from the east in the mid-1800s. Donner Lake and Memorial State Park can be a nice spot for a rest before continuing along Highway 80. It is a great place to stretch the legs and take in a little history.

    Donner Lake
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    Highway 101

    by SteveOSF Updated Jul 1, 2009

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    Interstate Highway 5 is the main north south highway route in California. Unfortunately, Highway 5 can be a bit boring to drive. Highway 101, however, offers an alternate for those with a little more time who would desire better scenery and some interesting places to explore, especially north of San Francisco.

    From San Francisco, Highway 101 crosses over the Golden Gate Bridge to Marin County. From San Francisco to the Oregon Boarder, Highway 101 is known as the Redwood Highway. The name is well earned as some spectacular redwood parks and forests are reached from the highway, especially near Humboldt where the “Avenue of the Giants” reaches to the heavens.

    Wine tasting can also be accessed from Highway 101. Some great wine tasting is centered around Healdsburg. Many vineyards are planted right along the highway north of the San Francisco Bay Area.

    North of Santa Rosa some Indian Casinos are located not far from the Highway 101. The newest is the River Rock near Windsor. Those who prefer green felt over green forests may want to check some of these out.

    Highway 101 was once the main north-south California route. Along its path are remnants of its earlier glory. However, an abundance of smaller towns line its route awaiting exploration. For travelers not in a rush to reach their destination, Highway 101 may provide some interesting sites along their journey.

    Highway 101 North of the San Francisco Bay Area A Vineyard Along Highway 101
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    Mount Diablo

    by SteveOSF Updated Jun 19, 2009

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    Mount Diablo dominants the skyline of the San Francisco East Bay region in Central California. Mount Diablo rises from the low flatlands of the East Bay to a summit of 3,849 feet (1,173m). Its peak offers commanding views of Central California. Although being far from the highest peak in California, the mountain’s climb from its low base to its top is impressive.

    The best time to observe the view is the morning after a winter storm when haze is at a minimum. A long winding road awaits those who venture to the top. The mountain is encompassed by Mount Diablo State Park. The park contains a myriad of hiking trails. The best hiking in the park occurs in spring and fall when the temperature is moderate and little mud is found on the trails. In the summer, the park can be extremely hot. Anyone hiking in the summer would do well to get an early start to avoid the mid-day heat and carry lots of water. Dogs are not allowed on the trails.

    Although the mountain is over 30 miles away from San Francisco, it can be easily seen across the bay on clear day. Mount Diablo is a natural landmark of the San Francisco Bay Area. Its peak is occasionally covered with clouds.

    Mt. Diablo is located in Contra Costa County, south of Clayton and northeast of Danville near Walnut Creek in the San Francisco East Bay Region.

    Mount Diablo as Seen from Shell Ridge View from a Mount Diablo State Park Hiking Trail
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    Redwood Coast

    by photochaser Written Feb 10, 2009

    Below are 2 pictures that list 25 things to do and see in Humboldt County. There is so much to do and see here. Just the coastline can sometimes take up the whole day. For the photographer, it is a paradise!
    For the adventurer, it is a dream to just drive and see what you might find along the way.

    Take your time and really enjoy this area, you will be glad you did.

    25 Great Things to see & do in Humboldt County 25 Great Things to see & do in Humboldt County
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    Mission San Juan Capistrano

    by DueSer Written Feb 3, 2009

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    If you are in the area (perhaps on your way from LA to San Diego) and can only afford a stop at one mission, this is the one to stop at. Mission SJC is one of the biggest, best, and prettiest of the missions and is located just off the 5 fwy. It currently costs $9 to get in - it's one of the few missions that has a required entrance fee but there is MUCH to see and do here.

    SJC was made famous in the song, "When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano" so a visit in March offers the chance to see the swallows returning. During the swallows festival there are many events going on, usually including Native American dancers and food, which is delicious.

    The town itself, with many historic homes, is pleasant for sightseeing as well and there several excellent Mexican restaurants.

    Mission San Juan Capistrano inner courtyard
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    Mission San Luis Rey

    by DueSer Updated Feb 3, 2009

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    The missions make up a sort of pearl necklace from one end of the state to the other. They were founded a day's travel (on horseback) from each other. Although the missions' treatment of the Native American population was deplorable, they are an excellent peek into the early history of California, before it became a part of the United States.

    This particular mission, second in order (the first was, and still is, in San Diego), was founded 1798 and is near Oceanside.

    Each mission is a beautiful example of early California architecture and, because they are all on the national register for historic places, are well-maintained, making a visit to any of them pleasant as well as educational. The missions all have something unique and San Luis Rey's special feature is the oldest pepper tree in California - started from seeds brought from Peru.

    Bear in mind that missions are requisite study for California 4th graders so any visit to a mission may be shared with dozens of 9 year olds. The mission offers a tour but you don't have to take it. You are allowed to some, if not all, areas on your own, depending on the mission.

    Mission San Luis Rey Oldest Pepper Tree in California
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    Nevada City

    by SteveOSF Updated Sep 23, 2008

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    Nevada City, located in the scenic Gold Gountry, is a Gold Rush Era town that dates back to the1849. Today, it still retains its historic look and feel. Its population of about 2,800 is only a fraction of the 10,000 who lived and worked there in 1850 during the mining heyday.

    This beautiful town is a pleasure to visit. Its historic downtown, centered around Broad Street, is a great place to stroll. Many of the old buildings still survive and remain in use today. Restaurants, shops, and even wine tasting rooms occupy the downtown. Nevada City is located in a picturesque spot in the foothills with great hiking and camping available in the nearby wilderness.

    Nevada City is located off Highway 49 near Grass Valley.

    Broad Street in Downtown Nevada City
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    The Russian River

    by SteveOSF Written Jul 12, 2008

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    The Russian River is about 70 miles north of San Francisco. Although many full time residents now live there, it retains its appeal as a resort area. The weather is warmer than San Francisco. The river is available for play. The Russian River Valley is an excellent wine region. The pinot noir and zinfandel produced there are among the best that California has to offer. Armstrong Woods is an excellent place to stroll though a wonderful redwood grove. Guerneville is the main town of the resort area, and features Johnson’s Beach for swimming, sunbathing, canoeing, and kayaking. Guerneville also host some music festivals during the summer.

    From San Francisco, take US 101 North. Take River Road Exit and turn left onto River Road. Follow River Road to the Russian River. Stop at wineries along the way if you like.

    Korbel Champagne Cellars
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