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Insider Tips from the Pod Squad

Let leading California podcast hosts guide you to compelling destinations around the Golden State

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Posted 3 months agoby Matt Jaffe

The best podcasts are entertaining, informative, and deeply personal—like listening to a good friend offer up stories and insights over a cup of coffee. On the most recent edition of the California Now Podcast, host Soterios Johnson spoke to three travel podcast hosts about their favorite places in the Golden State and how best to experience these destinations. Here’s a quick look at their podcasts, complete with inside tips on everything from the desert to Disney, not to mention an explanation why oh-so-proper San Franciscans still bristle when anyone calls their town “Frisco.”

Doing the Desert

The austere and beautiful desert region of California has long attracted unique characters, and on her Desert Lady Diaries podcast, host Dawn Davis talks to some of the fascinating women who have found their true homes in the Mojave. “I think people just have a sense of maybe not necessarily fitting in in other places, but they come here and, for lack of a better expression, they can let their freak flag fly and just do whatever it is they want to do,” she says.

Davis definitely felt the pull of the desert life herself. She first traveled to the area around Joshua Tree National Park in 2016, and the terrain quickly seduced her. “My senses were heightened,” she recalls. “I was really paying attention to the landscape and I sensed that there was something for me. I can't describe it any other way other than that I was being called to come here.”

If you’re in the market for a great Joshua Tree sunset, Davis recommends the panorama from Keys View, which looks out from its perch along the crest of the Little San Bernardino Mountains and across the Coachella Valley. The overlook takes in everything from the Salton Sea to snowcapped San Gorgonio Mountain, Southern California’s highest peak at 11,499 feet.

While the landscape is the big draw, Davis says you don’t want to miss the desert’s more civilized side, whether by sampling the artisanal cakes and pies at Boo’s Organic Oven bakery in the town of Joshua Tree or checking out the street murals in Twentynine Palms. According to Davis, “the murals depict everything from the indigenous peoples of this land, like the Cahuilla and the Serrano, to the homesteaders that were prominent in the community in the 1930s, and also the military component—because there's a huge Marine training base out there in Twentynine Palms.”

The Wonderful World of Walt

Many visitors are surprised to discover that the most impressive reliquary of artifacts from the life and career of Walt Disney is in San Francisco, not Anaheim—the home of Disneyland. So Mouseketeers of all ages should definitely visit the Walt Disney Family Museum in a beautifully renovated 1897 U.S. Army barracks building at the Presidio of San Francisco.

Bri Bertolaccini, the museum’s marketing manager, hosts WD-FM: The Official Walt Disney Museum Podcast, which is dedicated to all things Disney. While the museum is a must for hardcore Disney aficionados, more casual fans will also find plenty of fascinating exhibits. “If you're interested in Disney and Disney history, this is the place to go,” Bertolaccini explains. “It's the ultimate mecca. But for people who are interested in history in general, Walt Disney’s story spans through World War II, even World War I. So there are just a lot of different aspects that bring people into the museum.”

Highlights include the museum’s collection of Academy Award Oscar statuettes—the largest outside Hollywood. Disney won a remarkable 32 Oscars, the most by any individual, and the museum displays 26 of them. One award is particularly distinctive, says Bertolaccini. “We have a special Oscar for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs that was given to Walt,” she says. “It has one standard-size statuette, followed by seven smaller ones that descend down a stepped 20-inch base.”

While you could easily spend days exploring Disneyland, you could also spend hours marveling at the museum’s intricately detailed scale model of the theme park. At the bottom of a long ramp, the reproduction is the climax of the museum experience. “People say that they come back to see the model again and again,” says Bertolaccini. “I've looked at it so many times, and you still find new and exciting things.”

The City by the Bay

Bay Curious podcast host Olivia Allen-Price learned about San Francisco from the ground up. “When I moved here seven years ago, I knew nobody. My closest friend was in Texas,” she says. “So I spent a lot of time walking around the city and it was just immediately a place that I knew was home. Every nook and cranny fascinated me about the Bay Area.”

The podcast is an interactive collaboration with KQED-FM listeners, who send in questions that Allen-Price strives to answer. For example, she researched the city’s famous “Don’t call it Frisco” admonition. As she uncovered on the show, “Frisco” was popularized by blue-collar workers and the city’s elite decided it sounded low class. “They thought it was a dirty sounding word,” Allen-Price notes, and that attitude stuck.

With such landmarks as the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island, San Francisco has plenty of world-famous attractions. But Allen-Price loves a destination that even many locals know little about: Sutro Tower. The hourglass-shaped broadcast tower is atop Twin Peaks and the panorama is absolutely spectacular. “San Francisco is a small city, right? It's seven miles by seven miles, not that big, and you can see almost every inch of it,” says Allen-Price. “Sutro Tower is one of my favorite places to take people, maybe at the very end of a trip around the city. Because you can look back and see almost everywhere that you would have been that day.”

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