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Jeffrey Bloom Photography

Zaca Mesa Winery

Zaca Mesa Winery
Let the kids yell “checkmate” north of Santa Barbara

For a fun road trip with payoff for all, wind into wine country north of Santa Barbara to this elegant estate. Sure there are delicious wines for grownups—including a complex Syrah (hints of blackberry and mocha) and Roussane, an unusual white with apricot, fig, and honey notes—but there’s also a giant chessboard with life-size pieces. If the kids don’t know how to play, just use the pieces like checkers. Get pretty views and a nice dose of nature on inviting trails to deep pools of shade beneath handsome live oaks.

Plan ahead and pack a picnic—including meats and other items for grilling (onsite grills and picnic tables are open to all). Or, on most summer and holiday weekends, enjoy creative fare from local food trucks while local singers and musicians perform on the lawn.

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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

Now that repairs are complete, you can once again drive the legendarily scenic Highway 1 through Big Sur. With its redwood forests, towering...

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Casa de Fruta Courtesy of Casa De Fruta

CASA DE FRUTA ORCHARD RESORT

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

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

Ragged Point

Trip 3-4 Days 8 stops

San Luis Obispo to Ragged Point

Venture from San Luis Obispo up Highway 1 to discover pristine coastline, small beach towns, and a fabled landmark
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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—...

SPECIAL FEATURE
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...

SPECIAL FEATURE
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
SPECIAL FEATURE
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
SPECIAL FEATURE
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
SPECIAL FEATURE
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
July

Vampires beware: this is one garlic-infused weekend that you’ll want to miss. Everyone else—go, at least once, to this unforgettably odiferous and one-of-a-kind event. See how creative chefs can...

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Bill Strange Photography
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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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David McGlynn/Getty Images

Oxnard

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Discover California’s “Strawberry Coast”

Oxnard is where strawberries meet the sea. In this city 40 minutes south of Santa Barbara, you’ll find 7 miles/11.3 km of unspoiled beaches...

SPECIAL FEATURE
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
SPECIAL FEATURE
Check these amazing experiences off your bucket list

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
SPECIAL FEATURE
Beautiful locations, luxurious comforts

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

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El Capitan Canyon
SPECIAL FEATURE
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...