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Balance Between Urban and Rugged on California's Central Coast

Balance Between Urban and Rugged on California's Central Coast
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Explore, shop and experience California’s beautiful Central Coast.

Trip Time: 6 days

Day 1
Start your trip off right by shopping at Camarillo Premium Outlets . This is a gigantic outlet mall, featuring more than 120 outlet stores. You’ll find your favorite designers, such as Coach, Versace and Barneys New York. There’s more than enough to last all day!

Day 2
Today, visit Channel Islands National Park . Close to the California mainland, yet worlds apart, Channel Islands National Park encompasses five remarkable islands (Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Miguel and Santa Barbara) and their ocean environment, preserving and protecting a wealth of natural and cultural resources.

Day 3
Begin your third day in California by visiting Mission Santa Barbara . Widely referred to as the “Queen of the Missions,” this is definitely one of the most beautiful missions in California. Then, head to the nearby Santa Barbara County Courthouse . The Courthouse has been called the most beautiful government building in America. Designed by William Mooser III, the Spanish-Moorish style building was completed in 1929, after the 1925 earthquake ruined much of the city. Visitors can ride an elevator to the 85-foot “El Mirador” clock tower for unforgettable views of the city, coast and mountains. Other attractions include the Mural Room, “Spirit of the Ocean” fountain, noteworthy architecture and ornate tile work throughout the building.

In the afternoon, enjoy lunch and world-class art at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art . The museum is known for its extensive collection, with ancient art, impressionist paintings and modern art in the permanent collection. Only 10 minutes away is the Santa Barbara Zoo , home to 160 species of mammals, reptiles, birds and insects. More than 500 animals are exhibited in open, naturalistic habitats.

Tonight, play at Stearns Wharf . Built in 1872, historic Stearns Wharf is Santa Barbara’s most visited landmark. You can enjoy the magnificent view from the pier, check out the neighborhood stores and enjoy a wonderful dinner at one of the wharf’s restaurants.

Day 4
Visit Santa Barbara’s mouthwatering wineries, which gained their worldwide popularity through the huge hit Sideways – an Oscar-winning film. You can find many wineries in Santa Ynez Valley. Start with Sunstone Vineyard & Winery . Located 30 minutes north of Santa Barbara, Sunstone is one of the most beautiful wineries and tasting rooms in the Santa Ynez Valley. The tasting room is reminiscent of some of the small wineries in the Provencal French countryside, featuring a kitchen complete with a wood-burning oven and two stone barrel-aging caves built into the hillside. Another favorite is Gainey Vineyard . Highly acclaimed winery with numerous awards. The large gift shop carries a variety of gourmet products.

After tasting your fill, visit Solvang , a cute Danish town with half-timber buildings and windmills. The town features many authentic Danish bakeries and restaurants, and stores that sell Royal Copenhagen. Don’t forget to go to the Hans Christian Andersen Museum before you leave.

Visit Flower Field in Lompoc, known as the flower-seed capital of the world! The town is blanketed with vast fields of beautiful flowers, such as marigolds and sweet peas that bloom from June through August. Don’t forget to visit Mission La Purisima , a beautiful salmon-pink colored mission.

Day 5
Immerse yourself in California’s history at Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa , established in 1772. The fifth-oldest mission in California, the San Luis Obispo landmark also has a small museum. Only 20 minutes away, go even further back in time at Morro Rock , an immense granite monolith, standing along Morro Rock-Crescent Meadow Road, rising 6,725 feet above sea level.

After grabbing a bite to eat, head to stunning Hearst Castle . This 250,000-acre ranch and magnificent mansion once belonged to newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst. The 115 rooms and three huge cottages are connected by terraces and surrounded by pools, gardens and a zoo! The tour also shows you Hearst’s vast antique collections.

Relax and unwind at Big Sur this evening. Big Sur is one of the most luxurious resorts in the country, and was beloved by famous author Henry Miller. The resort is also known as a “healing place” among new age enthusiasts. If you are a fan, don’t forget to visit Henry Miller Library ! Savor a fabulous dinner at Nepenthe , once owned by Orson Wells and Rita Hayworth. This ocean view restaurant is popular for both tourists and locals.

Day 6
Continue on the mission trail with Carmel Mission Basilica , the second-oldest California mission, built in 1771. Then, head back to modern times by shopping at Carmel Plaza , an idyllic open-air mall with over 35 shops, galleries, and restaurants.  

Hop back in the car for 17-Mile Drive to Monterey, a famous route that winds through an 8,400-acre microcosm of the Monterey coastal landscape. You can take in the view of impeccable green at Pebble Beach Golf Links , beautiful ocean, and classic Monterey or Spanish mission-style mansions.

Once in Monterey, try breakfast at First Awakenings , voted best place for breakfast in Monterey. Now it's off to enjoy the world-renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium , where you are surrounded by sea creatures. There are plenty of options for lunch. Next to the aquarium, you can stop by the C restaurant at the InterContinental The Clement Monterey for lunch on the outdoor patio with stunning ocean views. Try the fresh seafood, premium Angus beef or local organic produce. No matter what you try, you're sure to be happy. Or try the Sardine Factory Restaurant for their signature Abalone Bisque or Calamari Puffs. Key scenes from Clint Eastwood's directorial debut, Play Misty for Me, were filmed here. Then, head to Monterey State Historic Park , California’s first historic park. You can take a look at a store, a theatre and government offices that are all well-preserved.

Wrap up your California excursion on Cannery Row . The waterfront street once crowded with sardine canneries was featured in John Steinbeck’s famous novel Cannery Row. The old tin-roof canneries have been converted into restaurants, art galleries and shops. For dinner, try the panoramic views of the The Duck Club Grill at the Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa. They offer innovative cuisine from their distinctly American grill menu. Another option for dinner is the Fish Hopper , world-class dining with views of Monterey Bay from every table.. Watch the sunset over the water, and dream of your next California vacation.

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