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Dave Parker/Flickr

Gilroy Gardens

Gilroy Gardens
Speciality rides highlight the area’s agricultural roots

If you're still searching for a way to get your kids to eat their veg, take them to this charming agricultural amusement park in the Garlic Capital of the World. The garden-themed rides—with silly names like Artichoke Dip (think spinning tea cups)—are so mild, some allow infant riders. Climb aboard a hungry worm for a trip around an apple core or crawl into the centre of a giant garlic bulb for some whirls and twirls.

In addition to low-key rides and attractions especially aimed at little ones, Gilroy Gardens is home to 'Circus Trees' by Axel Erlandson, who helped these trees achieve their whimsical shapes through an elaborate grafting process. Your child can go on a scavenger hunt to collect the famous trees—just pick up a brochure at the entrance. They’re all masterpieces, but the basket tree and the four-legged giant are must-sees.

The shady 536-acre property has six botanical gardens, the largest being the Monarch Garden, which is set in an 1,800-square-metre greenhouse. Some of the gardens have specialised tours, like a relaxed boat cruise through the flower filled Rainbow Garden. Alternatively you can climb aboard a re-creation of a Ford Model-T to tour the South County Backroads area, which has been landscaped to show how this broad valley south of San Francisco was once almost exclusively farmland. Children will also have a blast seeing the tropical and subtropical plants from on board the park’s miniature steam train.

Circus Trees of Gilroy Gardens
Circus Trees of Gilroy Gardens
Who says you can’t combine a theme park day with a unique adventure in Mother Nature?
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Alex Farnum

Central California

Discover the Central Coast

From the epic grandeur of Big Sur to the Mediterranean-style stretch of Santa Barbara coastline nicknamed 'the American Riviera', this region of picturesque hamlets, jagged sea cliffs and rolling wine country has long attracted - not surprisingly - writers and artists mesmerised by its dreamlike beauty.

Monterey served as California’s first capital when the state’s first constitution was signed in in the coastal city in 1849.

Take the epic Highway One drive between San Francisco and Los Angeles to discover secret beaches and soaring cliffs along Big Sur, stroll a redwood trail, spy a sea otter at the incomparable Monterey Bay Aquarium and sip Pinot Noir at sunset in the romantic Santa Ynez Valley.

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Courtesy of Ventana Big Sur

5 Great Ways to Experience Highway 1

Discover your favourite way to take in this iconic drive through Big Sur and beyond

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Pull over along California’s classic road trip route for these essential spots

California’s coast-hugging Highway 1 is what dream drives are made of. The iconic roadway—which extends for more than 650 miles from Dana Point north to ...

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Doug Steakley/Getty Images
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Casa de Fruta Courtesy of Casa De Fruta

CASA DE FRUTA ORCHARD RESORT

Part fruit stall, part theme park, this Central Coast stop is the perfect place to fill your belly

What started as a humble cherry stall in 1908 is now a huge roadside attraction, welcoming more than 3 million visitors each year. Located 40...

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Courtesy of Alisal Guest Ranch Resort

Santa Maria Barbecue

Head to California’s Central Coast to try this distinctive regional cuisine at its source

 

The barbecue styles of Kansas City, Memphis, and Texas are well known around the U.S., but California’s Santa Maria Valley claims a...

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Zachary Miller/Getty Images

Spotlight: Ventura County

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Absorb the relaxed vibe of this classic California destination on the coast

When it comes to places in California that feel like one big outdoor playground, Ventura County, on the south end of the Central Coast, stands out...

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Harriot Manley/Sunset Publishing

Spotlight: Santa Barbara

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Mediterranean style magic and a perfect ocean breeze

Bougainvillea twining across red-tiled rooftops, birdsong mingling with the ocean breeze, islands and whale spouts on the horizon—...

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See a few amazing wonders of the sea first-hand

Each year, about 20,000 grey whales make an epic 6,000-mile/9,656-km journey between Alaska and Mexico—and then back again. These whales travel from feeding grounds in the Bering Sea to mating and...

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Michele W/Flickr
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Kodiak Greenwood

Spotlight: Big Sur

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Art and nature merge on this rugged coast, one of California’s most spectacular settings

Welcome to one of the world’s most unforgettable stretches of coastline. This roughly 90-mile-long stretch of redwood- and fog-trimmed waterfront...

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Photo by Laura Flippen

Central Coast Wine Country

Miles of coastline, sunny hills, relaxing wineries

Historic ranchlands, a romantic coast, country roads, stay-a-while towns, and grapes—lots and lots grapes—make the Central Coast an outstanding...

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Get the inside scoop on California's most celebrated commodity

With more than 3,000 wineries statewide, California lets you sample award-winning wines almost anywhere you go. These classic and up-and-coming wine roads—some too packed with wineries to...

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Temecula Valley by Kodiak Greenwood
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Kid-friendly fun zones, special kids' menus & amazing wine for the grownups

Sure wine country is romantic, but now it’s a surprisingly great destination for families too, with a growing number of vineyards trading in elegant tasting rooms for kid-friendly fun zones that...

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John/ Flickr
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Farm-fresh produce, culinary adventures

Juicy heirloom tomatoes and just-picked strawberries. Super-sweet peaches shaped like mini UFOs. Artisanal cheeses, emerald-green olive oils, local wildflower honey—California’s farmers’ markets...

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Laura Flippen
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Discover the awesome sports scene in the Golden State

With nearly twice as many professional teams as any other state, California is big league all the way. But the state’s sports scene goes far beyond football and baseball, with a diverse line-up of...

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Christina Lauren/Flickr
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Ken Lund/Flickr

Ventura County Wine Trail

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Visit vineyards in coastal hills and communities

Sip your way along the Ventura County Wine Trail, where you’ll find nearly 20 wineries and tasting rooms in settings ranging from urban...

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Big-city-worthy events liven the sleepy Central Coast

Bookended by the big cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco, the Central Coast may be known for its mellow pace, but the closeness of those major gateways bring big names to relatively small...

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Photo courtesy of Monterey Jazz Festival
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Kiss a beluga, see cool movie props, and learn about Walt’s secret hideaway on exclusive and behind-the-scenes tours at California’s theme parks and attractions. Here’s a roundup of worth-the-...

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Photo by Michael Saechang/Flickr
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Beautiful locations, luxurious comforts

Get the starry nights, the campfire stories, the cosy sleeping bag, and all the best parts of camping in some of California’s most beautiful settings—but without the hassle of hauling loads of...

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El Capitan Canyon
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Old-fashioned fun in the Golden State

Historic oceanfront playgrounds, classic city-park charmers, boisterous adventures—smaller theme parks and attractions offer an array of ways to play.  These smaller parks offer old-...

Safari West
Tai Power Seeff
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Harriot Manley/ Sunset Publishing

Solvang

A Danish stronghold makes a charming outpost surrounded by ranch lands and vineyards

Imagine a village where fresh-cut flowers and warm-from-the-oven pastries scent the air. Add gingerbread architecture, twirling windmills, and...

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Tai Power Seeff

Central Coast Missions

Visit some of California’s most beautiful missions to discover the state’s Spanish roots

Strung like Spanish pearls along an 824-mile trail from San Diego to Sonoma, California’s 21 historic missions offer a wealth of treasures, from...