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Travel Tips & Information

Whether you dream of carving a wave for the first time, relaxing at a wine country estate, taking a spin on an iconic theme park ride or walking through soaring redwoods, you will find your perfect getaway in California. What you will find here are ways to make that dream holiday happen without a hitch.

The tips and information here help you know the ins and outs of travel in the Golden State, with tips on best times to travel, transportation, accommodation and camping, even good-sense guides for bicycle fans. Details here can help plan your trip and tell you where to turn for more useful information and insider tips once you get here. Happy planning.

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REAL ID Travel Requirements

REAL ID Travel Requirements
The rules are changing for domestic travelers. Here’s what you need to know

Mark your calendars, Americans: As of October 1, 2020, all domestic travelers will be required to have REAL ID-compliant identification (or an approved alternative such as a U.S. passport) in order to board commercial flights. In other words, your traditional driver’s license or state ID will not suffice, you will not be permitted through the security checkpoint, and you will not be able to fly.

REAL ID-compliant cards are generally marked with a star in the upper portion of the card. The style of the star will vary depending on the state and it’s best to check with your state’s department of motor vehicles to determine if your license is compliant.

It’s also a good idea to visit your state’s driver’s licensing agency website to find out exactly what documentation is required to obtain a REAL ID. At a minimum, you must provide documentation showing: 1) full legal name; 2) date of birth; 3) Social Security number; 4) two proofs of address of principal residence; and 5) lawful status. States may impose additional requirements, so check before visiting them in person.

For detailed information about acquiring a REAL ID-compliant card in your state, go to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s REAL ID page or visit the U.S. Travel Association’s REAL ID factsheet.

Approximately 99 million Americans currently do not have documents that will be required for domestic air travel beginning October 1, 2020. Don’t be one of them. And remember: Without the star, you won’t go far.

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California Geography Essentials

California Geography Essentials
The Golden State is a massive place, and understanding some of the distances and details will help you on your next visit

California is super-sized by any metric. The third largest U.S. state comprises more square miles than many countries, with a land mass that’s more than three times the size of Greece and four times bigger than Iceland.

To see a good chunk of California in one trip, you need to strategize. The state’s elongated outline sprawls across nearly 900 miles, stretching from its northern border with Oregon to its southern border with Mexico. Put the pedal to the metal and you might make the north-to-south drive in 15 hours. (It’s about the same distance as driving from New York City to Jacksonville, Florida.) Spin your wheels west to east across the skinny part of the state, and you’ll still need most of a day. From Santa Barbara to Needles, California is 350 miles wide.

Even in California’s metropolitan regions, distances are great. Planning to drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles? You’ll need a full day to cover nearly 400 miles. Cruising Southern California on a theme park road trip? The route from Universal Studios Hollywood to SeaWorld San Diego spans 125 miles. Hitting the beaches in Los Angeles and Orange County? Figure on 90 miles between Malibu’s tony shoreline and Laguna Beach’s rocky coves.

And if you’re hankering to see California’s majestic desert parks, plug this number into your itinerary: 230 highway miles separate Death Valley’s dazzling badlands and Joshua Tree’s astounding rock formations.

California’s largest county, San Bernardino, covers more than 20,000 square miles—more land area than Vermont and New Hampshire combined. Even in smaller counties, towns are often far-flung, both in miles and character. Within the boundaries of winery-rich Sonoma County, historic Sonoma Plaza’s artisan cafes and boutiques lie 85 miles from the laidback beach hamlet of Sea Ranch, where the seaside climate makes summer days 20 degrees cooler. On California’s eastern side in Inyo County, winter drops deep, powdery snow in Bishop’s high mountains, but 165 miles away, the low desert at Furnace Creek bakes under a summer-like sun.

All this rambling geography translates to vast and varied scenery. Find your landscape in 840 miles of coastline, 25,000 square miles of desert, or a smattering of snow-capped volcanos. Stand among the planet’s tallest trees in the temperate rainforest of far northern California, or visit North America’s hottest and driest point near the state’s eastern border. Explore the Sierra Nevada Mountains, a 400-mile-long string of saw-toothed peaks that cradles Lake Tahoe, one of the world’s largest alpine lakes, and Mount Whitney, the highest mountain in the contiguous United States at 14,505 feet.

The bottom line: California is grand in scope and scale. Give yourself plenty of time to go the distance. To that end, here are some time and distance calculations to help you plan your next visit. (Note: drive times are approximate and vary depending on when you travel.)

San Diego to Anaheim: 95 miles/153 km (2 hours)

San Diego to Los Angeles: 120 miles/193 km (2.5 hours)

Anaheim to Los Angeles: 27 miles/43 km (1 hour)

Los Angeles to Palm Springs: 105 miles/169 km (2 hours)

Los Angeles to Santa Barbara: 95 miles/153 km (2 hours)

Yosemite National Park to Sequoia National Park: 160 miles/258 km (4 hours)

Yosemite National Park to Death Valley National Park: 250 miles/403 km (5 hours)

Sacramento to Redding: 160 miles/258 km (2.5 hours)

Sacramento to San Francisco: 90 miles/145 km (2 hours)

Reno to San Francisco: 218 miles/351 km (4 hours)

San Francisco to Napa: 50 miles/ 80 km (1 hour)

San Francisco to Sonoma: 45 miles/72 km (1 hour)

San Francisco to Yosemite: 200 miles/322 km (3.5 hours)

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Travel Updates

Travel Updates
Check out the latest California Updates

Two October 2019 fires — the Kincade Fire in northeastern Sonoma County and the Saddle Ridge Fire in Los Angeles County — have all been contained. There were no fatalities associated with either fire and the affected acreage of these two incidents amounts to less than 0.08% of California’s total area.

It is worth noting that California is a massive state—roughly 900 miles long and 350 miles wide. For a better sense of the distances separating many California communities, please review California Geography Essentials, which also lists drive times between key destinations.

If you are planning a trip to California and want real-time perspective on its destinations, visit Here Is What California Looks Like Right Now, a continually updated blog post showcasing traveler photography.

For any visitors who remained concerned about their California travel plans, several resources can provide real-time updates: In addition to the CalFire website, you can access livecams and air-quality information at WestCoastTravelFacts.org.

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How to Enjoy California’s Parks and Public Lands

How to Enjoy California’s Parks and Public Lands
Follow a few sustainable travel tips to help make the most of these Golden State assets

Enjoying the outdoors is more popular than ever, according to visitation numbers at California parks. Joshua Tree National Park hit a record high of roughly three million visitors in 2018, doubling its numbers since 2013. More than four million people have vacationed in Yosemite National Park every year since 2015. Muir Woods instituted a reservation system to manage its one million redwood-loving visitors, and managers at Carmel’s Point Lobos State Natural Reserve will soon follow suit.

All this nature time is great for visitors’ physical and mental well-being, but the recent uptick in numbers has led to an oft-repeated storyline: More people equals more pressure on the fragile environment.

Wilderness expert John Kleinfelter, who operates Yosemite Guide Service, says, “Our overwhelming love of the outdoors sometimes clashes with our need to protect it.”

Fortunately, it’s incredibly easy to be a responsible outdoor recreationist. The national organization Leave No Trace distills it into seven core principles based on respect for nature and other people. These include traveling only on trails or other durable surfaces, disposing of waste properly, being considerate of other visitors, and leaving nature exactly as you found it.

Nature fans across the state are taking action. In Big Sur, residents launched a campaign urging visitors to take the Big Sur Pledge. It’s a promise to enjoy the region’s beauty without harming it, with guidelines for respecting property, protecting natural resources, camping only where permitted, and driving safely on coastal roads.

The iconic Bixby Bridge at Big Sur’s northern gateway is what land managers call a “hot spot,” a photogenic attraction that has seen an exponential surge in smartphone-carrying visitors. The bridge’s graceful arch, which spans a dramatic canyon opening to the Pacific’s roiling waves, has been in place since 1931. But only recently has it gone viral.

“Instagram and social media have highlighted spots that were much less visited in the past, inspiring thousands of people to get outdoors,” Kleinfelter says. “That’s a good thing, but many newcomers don’t understand outdoor ethics.”

Travel photographer Megan Hayes says that many visitors don’t realize their impact on the environment. “When people rush to get a photo, they can inadvertently crush fragile plants, cause erosion, or damage the natural scenery they came to enjoy.”

Hayes says that Instagram influencers can use their power for good. “Don’t post images that glorify bad behavior, like camping too close to a lake or stepping on plants. Instead, show people enjoying nature respectfully.”

Other ways to protect California’s precious resources include joining a trail organization or volunteering at your favorite national park or California state park.

Kleinfelter recommends that nature lovers set a good example and speak up when necessary. “There aren’t enough rangers around to educate people and enforce rules. If you see someone picking wildflowers or disturbing wildlife, say something in a non-confrontational way. Remind them that they want to protect these beautiful places so the next person can appreciate them.”

Visitors can also take small actions that have a big impact, like picking up litter. “Litter has no owner,” Kleinfelter says. “These parks and public lands belong to all of us, and it’s up to us to take care of them.”

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Safe Winter Driving

Safe Winter Driving
Follow these tips for getting to your snowy destination safely

By early March 2019, more than 50 feet of snow had fallen at the summit of Mammoth Mountain in the Eastern Sierra and at Lake Tahoe’s Squaw Valley (which received a record-setting 26 feet in February alone). Even down in warmer and drier Southern California, barely two hours from Los Angeles, Big Bear Mountain Resort had been hit by 11 feet of snow.

Although big snowstorms are great for extending California’s ski season—all the way to July in some cases—they also create potential weather-related challenges for drivers heading to the mountains.

"If people are coming up from Sacramento or the Bay Area, it may be raining down there, but when you get up to the summit, it’s a completely different situation,” says Raquel Borrayo, a public information officer for Caltrans District 3, which encompasses 11 Northern California counties, including areas in the Sierra Nevada. “The weather changes very quickly. It can be nice and barely snowing one minute, then in the next hour it’s whiteout conditions. We like to make sure that people understand what conditions are like before they begin their travels and that they are prepared for it.”

Commonsense preparation and a healthy respect for the realities of winter mountain driving can make all the difference in the world. Both Caltrans and the California Highway Patrol have prepared lengthy lists of tips that you should check as you plan your trip to the snow country. Here are a few highlights:

Before You Go

Monitor weather conditions. While you should still always expect the unexpected, we live in a golden age of weather forecasting. Websites for the National Weather Service, Weather Channel, and Accuweather offer a variety of forecasts, from conditions by the hour to as far as 10 days out. Visitor bureaus for such major winter destinations as Lake Tahoe, Mammoth Lakes, Big Bear Lake, and Mt. Shasta all include local weather information on their websites, as do most individual ski resorts.

Check on road status. The road information page on the Caltrans website lists updated road conditions and allows you to search specific routes by highway number. Current conditions are also available by calling 800/427-7623. A link to social media sites for Caltrans districts around the state is another excellent resource for localized information. While on the highway, look for signs showing the frequency for Caltrans Highway Advisory Radio (HAR), which provides regular updates.

Prepare your car. Good tires that are properly inflated and have adequate tread life will greatly enhance handling on slick roads. You may not need antifreeze at sea level but in the mountains, temperatures can quickly plunge, so check levels before leaving home. Visibility is always challenging in the high country, but it is especially so if your windshield wipers are worn or your defroster doesn’t work.

Chains, chains, chains. Depending on snow conditions and chain requirements, which change with the weather, you may not be able to proceed past checkpoints unless you have chains, even if you’re in a four-wheel-drive vehicle. “If you come up unprepared and don’t have chains, you might get stuck overnight,” says Borrayo. “We will not allow you to get back on the highway and endanger yourself or other people.”

Chain installers are not allowed to sell chains, so don’t count on buying any traction devices on your way up to the mountains. But auto parts stores, including Pep Boys and Auto Zone, carry a selection of tire chains, so purchase chains before reaching the mountains.

Speaking of which, practice putting on your chains while still at home. Your learning curve will be much more pleasant in the comfort of your driveway or garage than along a freezing, soggy highway in the middle of a winter storm.

If you’re renting a car, keep in mind that major rental agencies, including Enterprise, Hertz, and Avis, do not provide chains, nor do they allow customers to put chains on their vehicles. When renting, inquire about the availability of all-wheel-drive vehicles and autos with snow tires, which are available at some locations. But remember: Under the strictest chain requirements, even all-wheel-drive and snow tires won’t get you through checkpoints.

For more information about using tire chains, Yosemite National Park has a helpful guide.

Gear up. Buy or bring an ice scraper to clear windows and a broom to sweep snow off your car. If you get stuck, a shovel will make it much easier to dig your vehicle out. And kitty litter isn’t just for cats: It can help provide added traction if you get stuck.

Pack a few extras. Additional clothing, blankets, and extra food and water will provide a measure of comfort if you end up experiencing lengthy delays.

On the Road

Chill out in winter. Sure, you’re eager to get up to the slopes but speeding in snowy conditions can be deadly. Reduce your stress by leaving early and giving yourself extra time to get up to the mountains.

Don’t play gas roulette. Make sure you have a full tank of gas before you start climbing. Traffic delays and closed highways might mean that you won’t be able to reach the next gas station when your fuel light comes on.

Stay in control. Turn off cruise control and always drive defensively, keeping an eye out for other drivers.

Don’t rely on navigational devices. Tempting as it may be to find shortcuts around slow traffic by using Waze and Google Maps, these apps might direct you onto secondary roads that aren’t plowed and where you could easily get stranded.

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Courtesy of Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose

障害者のいる家族が楽しめるカリフォルニアのお出かけスポット

障害者のいる家族が楽しめるカリフォルニアのお出かけスポット
どんな人でも安心して楽しめるテーマパーク、博物館、公園をまとめて紹介

どんな状況であっても、家族全員での旅行は大変さが伴うものですが、もし家族の中に援助を必要とする障害者がいる場合、楽しい旅行にするためにはもう少し綿密な計画が必要となります。幸い、カリフォルニアの家族向けのお出かけスポットは、公園には車椅子のスロープが多く設置され、テーマパークは大きな騒音や行列に動揺する可能性がある発達障害のある方にも対応できるようになっていますので、障害を持つ方でも十分楽しむことができます。

旅行前には、訪問する施設のウェブサイトを見て利用しやすさを確認することをお勧めします。車椅子のレンタルや補聴器などの装置が利用できるかどうか、特別なイベント、または介助動物に関する方針などの詳細を前もって知っておきましょう。例えば、カリフォルニア州立公園での50%割引料金など、障害者割引があります。

多くの商業施設では、自閉症スペクタル障害のある方を助ける「ソーシャルナラティブ」を提供していますので、訪問中に起きること予想し、準備することができます。LAのダウンタウンにある人気の博物館、ザ・ブロードでのガイドや、サンタバーバラの科学指向のMOXIザ・ウルフ・オブ・エクスプロレーション+イノベーションでの専用アプリが例として挙げられます。「開設当時から、コミュニティを反映して、すべての人を受け入れる博物館にすることを目的としてきました。」とMOXIの教育ディレクターであるロン・スキナーは語ります。「このアプリを利用することで、訪れる家族はMOXIがどのような場所であるかをより詳しく知り、十分な情報に基づいて訪問するかどうか決めることができます。」

ここでは、20を超えるテーマパーク、公園、博物館など、障害者とその家族を積極的に受け入れてる施設をご紹介します。

テーマパーク

シーワールド・サンディエゴ

入場ゲート付近にあるゲーストサービスにて「ゲスト・アクセシビリティ・プログラム」に登録して、「RAPシート」(ライド・アクセシビリティ・プログラム)を入手しましょう。ゲストとリストに記載した同伴者5名までが、乗り物やアトラクションの利用時間を設定することができます。オンラインガイドでは、最低でも片手で手すりに摑まることができるなど、それぞれの乗り物の体にかかる負担について確認することができます。ショーやツアーのための手話通訳士をリクエストする場合、訪れる2週間前にゲストサービスに申し込む必要があります。

レゴランド・カリフォルニアカールスバッド

レゴブロックで遊ぶことは、自閉症スペクトラム症(または他の障害)の子供にとって、社会性やコミュニケーション能力を発達させるために非常によい方法だと考えられています。レゴ天国であるこのパークは、当然そのような障害を持つ方たちを受け入れる体制が整っています。
乗り物に乗るには、ゲストサービスでアシステッド・アクセス・パスについてお尋ねください(書類等は不要です)。このパスを入手すると、待たずに第一希望の乗り物に乗ることができ、他の乗り物の利用時間を設定することができます。パーク内には、指定された静かなエリアもあります。また、車椅子のアクセスにはダウンロードできるガイドも用意されています。入場ゲートでは車椅子またはベビーカーをレンタルすることができます。ベビーカーを車椅子として使用する場合は、入場ゲートでその旨を示すタグを入手してベビーカーに着けてください。
遅くとも訪れる2週間前までにexperience@legoland.comまでEメールで連絡すると、ショーのための手話通訳士を手配することもできます。

ディズニーランド・リゾート、アナハイム

オレンジカウンティのメッカ、多くの人が憧れるディズニーランドは、運動・視覚・発達障害者向けの幅広いサービスを提供しています。
まずはゲスト・リレーションズ・センターに立ち寄って、訪問中に必要となるサービスについて相談しましょう。ディズニーランド・リゾートには、混雑を避けるために特定の乗り物に優先入場できるファストパス・プログラムがありますが、障害者アクセスサービスでは「利用時間」の選択肢が多く、ゲスト・リレーションズのキオスクで1回に1つずつ設定できます。訪問する前に、発達障害のある方のためのアトラクションの詳細食事に関する特別要望ガイドをダウンロードしましょう。

ナッツベリーファーム、ブエナパーク

ギルロイ・ガーデンズギルロイ

カリフォルニア・グレートアメリカ、サンタクララ

オレンジカウンティのブエナパークにあるナッツベリーファーム、セントラルコーストの世界のニンニクの首都にあるギルロイ・ガーデンズ、そしてシリコンバレーのサンタクララにあるグレートアメリカは、すべてシーダーフェアーが経営するパークで、共通のプログラムを提供しています。運動に障害がある方や自閉症の方は、入場ゲート付近のゲストサービスオフィスにて、ライドボーディングパス(Ride Boarding Pass)を入手することができます。そのパス(いくかの質問に答えるだけで入手できます)を持って乗り物の別の入り口(通常、出口になります)に行き、係員から利用時間を入手します。パスは本人と同伴する4人まで利用できます。ナッツベリーファームギルロイ・ガーデンズ、そしてグレイトアメリカのゲストアシスタンス・ガイドには、すべての乗り物とアトラクションの特別機能が一覧表になっており、光感受性のある方に刺激を与える可能性のあるフラッシュやその他の光源を使用している乗り物の詳細についても記されています。

ユニバーサル・スタジオ・ハリウッド

このLAカウンティにある映画のテーマパークでは、あらゆる状況に対応できるさまざまなサービスを提供しています。自閉症の方が休憩したいときにはファミリーセンターの静かな部屋が利用できますし、ゲスト・リレーションズ・オフィスでは補聴器や点字あるいは大きな文字のガイドなどをレンタルすることができます。通訳サービスを手配する場合は、訪問する一週間前に電話で連絡しましょう。事前に乗り物ガイドを見て、乗り物やアトラクションの速度や感覚、特殊効果について調べたり、食事制限ガイドを見て、グルテン、ピーナッツ、乳製品を使用していない食事の選択肢について確認しておきましょう。

シックスフラッグス・マジックマウンテンバレンシア

シックスフラッグス・ディスカバリーキングダムバレホ

カリフォルニアにある2つのシックスフラッグスのテーマパークは、ロサンゼルスカウンティのバレンシアとサンフランシスコの東のバレホにあります。どちらのゲストサービスでも、アトラクション・アクセスパスを入手することができます。
パスを利用すると、希望する乗り物の利用時間が程よく間隔をあけて設定され、同伴者も3人まで乗ることができます(乗り終えた後に、係員が乗り終えた印をマークします)。アトラクション・アクセスパスを入手するためには、何らかの障害があることを証明する医師の診断書が必要ですが、一旦パスを入手すると、情報はパークの全システムに保存されますので、その後はシックスフラッグス系のパークで診断書を提示する必要はありません。

ショーを観るための補聴器については、ゲスト・リレーションズに問い合わせましょう。少なくとも1週間前までに申し込めば、米国手話法の通訳士を手配することができます。またここでは、資格を持つ介護者が障害者に付き添う場合は入場が無料になります。

博物館

バルボアパークの博物館、サンディエゴ

人類博物館サンディエゴ美術館写真アート美術館などのバルボアパークにある7つの博物館では、高機能自閉症の青年によって作成された、視覚的に下見ができるソーシャルストーリーズが用意されていますので、事前にダウンロードすることをお勧めします。

パークで最も人気の高い2つの博物館では、自閉症の方がいる家族のためのスペシャルデーを設けています。
フリート科学センターでは、毎月第3土曜日に「自閉症アクセシビリティ・モーニング」を開催しています。その日は通常より早く開館しますので、静かな中で見学することができます。クールダウンする場所が設置されていたり、特別に用意された低音量で(照明を消さずに)、IMAXの映画を観ることもできます。目の前にあるサンディエゴ自然史博物館では、毎月第2土曜日の午前中を自閉症の人向けの時間としています。これらの土曜日の入場料には、IMAXシアターの鑑賞が含まれており、巨大なスクリーンではセンサリーフレンドリー(感覚刺激を抑えた)に設定された『オーシャンオアシス』を貸し切りで観ることができます。また午前9時から
12時まで、静かな部屋で過ごすこともできます。この2つの博物館では、IMAX映画で使用する補聴器や、フリート博物館のドームシアターで使用するクローズドキャプション機器が常に用意されています。

サンディエゴ・チルドレンズ・ディスカバリー・ミュージアム、エスコンディード

サンディエゴのノースカウンティにあるこの博物館では、「センサリーフレンドリー・ミュージアム・モーニング」を毎月第1土曜日の朝9時から
10時と、毎週月曜日の朝8時半から 9時半に開催しています。自閉症スペクトラムの方、あるいは感覚過敏を持ち合わせている方は、静かな部屋や特別に用意された休憩室を利用することができます。受付にはノイズキャンセリングヘッドホンも常時用意されています。

アクアリウム・オブ・ザ・パシフィック、ロングビーチ

ロサンゼルスカウンティにあるこの大きな水族館では、数か月おきに自閉症の夕べを開催しており、障害のある方は静かな環境の中で館内(一部を除く)を見学することができます(嬉しいことに入場料も割引となります)。視覚障害者のための音声ガイドや、聴覚障害者のための補聴器は受付にていつでも入手できます。アビリティズ・ナイトのような障害者向けの夕べなどの特別イベントについては、年間カレンダーをご覧ください。

MOXI、ザ・ウルフミュージアム・オブ・エクスプロレーション+イノベーション、サンタバーバラ

サンタバーバラにあるこの博物館は、体験型のSTEAM関連(サイエンス、テクノロジー、エンジニアリング、アート、マス[数学])の展示が主体となっています。また、無料のセンサリーフレンドリーなアプリ「アクセスMOXI」を提供していますので、自閉症や感覚処理障害を持つ方は事前に博物館について知ることができます。または、ノイズ低減機能を搭載したヘッドホンやフィジェットトイ(手慰みの遊びに使う玩具)、サングラス、そして「迷子の時の連絡先」のリストバンドが入ったセンサリーバックパックキットが用意されていますので、受付にてお尋ねください。

チルドレンズ・ディスカバリー・ミュージアム、サンノゼ

シリコンバレーにあるこの子ども博物館では、毎月第2火曜日の午後、特別な読み聞かせとセンサリーアクティビティが行われる「アフタヌーン・フォー・オール・アビリティズ」を開催しています。土曜日には2才~5才の自閉症の子供に向けた「プレイ・ユア・ウェイ」もありますので、イベントカレンダーでご確認ください。博物館のソーシャルストーリーや音低減ヘッドセットはいつでも入手できますので、受付でお尋ねください。また1階には「クワイエットルーム(静かな部屋)」も設置されています。

ザ・テック、サンノゼ

このベイエリアの博物館では、数か月に一度きまった夜に「センサリーフレンドリーアワー」を開催しています。その夜は混雑することなく、静かな部屋、そして見やすい照明(と低音量)の中で展示やIMAXの映画を観ることができます。ザ・テックでは他にも、7才~14才の女子向けのガールズデーなど、バラエティーに富んだテーマのイベントを開催しています。

公園(プレイグラウンド)

バリアフリーの公園、ロサンゼルス

ロサンゼルスカウンティには、障害者も使えるプレイグラウンドが38か所にあり、専用に作られたものと、既存のものを障害を持つ子供たちも遊べるように改造されたものがあります。自閉症、ダウン症、脳性麻痺の子供たちのために設計されたグリフィスパークのシェーンズ・インスピレーションや、高い位置に砂場を設置するなど障害者向けに適応されているウェストウッド・レクリエーションセンターにあるエイダンズ・プレイスなどは素晴らしい公園の例です。

フェアモント・カルーセル・プレイグラウンド、リバーサイド

市経営の約101ヘクタールのフェアモントパーク内にあり、メリーゴーランドがテーマのこの公園には音楽機器、水遊び場、メリーゴーランド、そして音が出る特殊なパネルなどが備わっています。

テータムズ・ガーデン、サリナス

セントラルコーストの街にある1,900平方メートルの広さを持つこの公園は、二分脊椎症の子どもが住んでいたことがきっかけで作られました。車椅子用のスロープや障害者用のブランコが設置され、床はクッション性のあるゴム塗装で覆われています。

ヘレン・ディラー・プレイグラウンド、サンフランシスコ

2012年にオープンしたミッション・ドロレスにあるこの公園は、約14メートルの長さの滑り台まで車椅子でアクセスできたり、車椅子で入れる船の形の遊び場が2つあります。

Travel Tips & Information vc_californiapacking_st_rf_622072_1280x640
Liz Sallee Bauer/Offset

How to Pack for a Trip to California

How to Pack for a Trip to California
The lowdown on what to bring with you—and what to leave at home

California attracts more than 250 million tourists each year, many of whom are eager to swim, ski, hike, and of course, sample local wines. Others map out memorable road trips that lead them from ocean breezes in the morning to snowy trails by nightfall. “California is such a varied state, with many different climates,” says Los Angeles stylist Morgan Simonds of Better Off Dressed, “so it’s important to pack one key item to address each: everything from a fleece to a bikini, hiking shoes to stilettos.”

Whether you’re visiting from Florida or France, you’ll want to be strategic about what you bring with you. “As a New Yorker who visits California four times a year, I am always struck by how unexpectedly cold I get,” says Lori Bergamotto, Style Director for Good Housekeeping. “I learned quickly that layering is the only solution if you desire comfort at any temperature. Denim jackets, lightweight knit cardigans, capes, ponchos—even a swingy trench—can all be dressed up or dressed down and will prepare you for whatever the weather may be.”

Of course, no one wants to traverse the state weighed down by gigantic suitcases. The trick is to pack smart—whether you’re visiting a big city or tasting Pinots—and to wear more than one layer when you travel. Before you pack your bags, review our recommendations below.

Channel California cool 

“You often hear that California style is laid-back,’” says Bay Area blogger Stephanie Nguyen of Sunkissed Steph, “and that's because it’s true! Whether you're down the coast in L.A., the land of denim shorts, or in the Bay Area, where hoodies reign supreme, the style here is definitely on the casual and comfortable side.” Plus, California style is highly individual. “You can totally wear a blazer and jeans here,” says Simonds, “but we would pair it with a rocker tee and a cool pair of sneakers to give the look more of an edge.”

Pick versatile pieces 

“Stick with neutral colors—a white tee, or a white button-down shirt if you need to look polished, along with dark denim jeans, black or navy pants, etc.,” says Bergamotto. “You can get so much more mileage out of simple styles. That said, know your agenda,” she advises. “Let your itinerary determine if you go more practical and polished, or more bohemian and beachy.”

If setting sail in San Diego, you’ll want a scarf for when the wind picks up. When visiting a vineyard in Napa Valley or Santa Ynez Valley, be sure to pack a pair of dark-colored flats that can absorb spills and grass stains. Headed to the desert? Pack tank tops and plenty of sunscreen. In San Francisco, where rain is more frequent, an umbrella is a good idea. And if you’re going out to nice dinners in L.A., take a neutral pair of wedges you can wear again and again.

Bergamotto considers the slip dress “a traveler's best companion,” saying, “Wear it alone with sandals for a sweltering day; throw a white tee under it—or a cropped top over it—with a pair of sneakers if the temps are in the low 70s; add a denim jacket to that if the temps dip into the 60s, and for cool nights add an oversize cardigan or cape with a heeled bootie.” 

Streamline your accessories 

In terms of accessories, don’t forget essentials, like a hat and sunglasses, but try to simplify what you bring on the jewelry front. Basic studs and a stack of bracelets that can be worn day in and day out without standing out too much are ideal. “For a little sparkle, layer a colorful jeweled necklace with a charm necklace,” suggest Simonds. 

You’ll want a versatile handbag that can fit boarding passes, lip balm, and more, without putting stress on your shoulders. Both Cuyana and Everlane are San Francisco–based brands with beautiful bags that fit the bill.

For something kid-friendly, consider a classic coat tote from L.L. Bean, which can handle everything from sand toys to diapers. Bergamotto is also a firm believer in large Ziploc bags because you can see the contents while keeping things separated. “If there is a spill, such as toothpaste, sunscreen, or hand sanitizer, it will be contained,” she explains.

Don't forget your feet

Streamlining your shoes can be tricky, especially if you have a formal event, such as a wedding, in your travel plans. If that’s the case, plan to repeat the same pair of heels at the rehearsal dinner and ceremony, and then bring one (or two) other adaptable styles that can go from day to night. “The most transitional shoe in California is a flat lace-up sandal,” says Simonds. “It can get you from the beach to a fun brunch, to a casual dinner with ease.”

A functional but cool pair of sneakers or espadrilles works well while shopping, museum hopping, or taking in a ball game. If you’re planning to swim, you’ll want a water-resistant flip-flop or sandal; if you’re hiking, a sneaker or boot; and if you’re skiing, wear a warm, closed-toe style while traveling, then rent boots when you get to the mountains. Even the most basic packages include skis, poles, and boots.

Consider the kids

Versatility is just as important when packing for your children. Select items that they can wear more than once, such as shorts, pants, and leggings in colors that work with multiple tops, since shirts are harder to repeat. (Ice-cream stains, anyone?)

In terms of their footwear, try to keep it simple. “With our kids, we opt for sneakers for both, plus one actual shoe, like Mary Janes or flats for our daughter,” says Bergamotto. “If we know we’ll be spending lots of time at the beach, then skip the ‘shoe’ and opt for water shoes, which also double nicely as casual stroll-around-town shoes.”

Shop when you arrive

Lastly, if your suitcases are nearly impossible to zip, think about what you can buy once you reach your destination—and use up before you head home—such as sunscreen, snacks, and wipes. Also consider what kinds of things you’re likely to pick up along the way, such as a sweatshirt or hat, so that you don’t end up with duplicates. Got all that? Alright. Ready, set, pack!

Travel Tips & Information familytips_1280x642

11 Tips for California Family Vacations

11 Tips for California Family Vacations
Plan your Golden State trip with these family-friendly travel hacks

Sun, surf, mountains, and roller coasters: The Golden State is big and beautiful, whether you want to play at the beach, ride your way across California theme parks, or camp at one of California’s national parks. The state’s size and variety of offerings mean that a California family vacation will call for some solid preparation. Here are 11 tips and family-friendly travel hacks to help you build your family’s trip, with an eye toward keeping the fun quotient high and missed opportunities to a minimum.

Planning a Golden State road trip? Check out our special road trip tips for that too.

1. Pack and dress in layers. In Southern California, a sunny 70-degree day can feel like 80 or hotter to people from other parts of the country, while a cloudy 60-degree day can feel much chillier, thanks to ocean breezes. In Northern California—especially San Francisco—summer can mean a lot of morning fog and temperatures in the 50s that turn into warmer temps in the afternoon. All over the state, it’s a safe bet to dress in layers and keep a sweater, sweatshirt, or light jacket in your day pack.

2. Don’t pack beach gear. Your hotel may have toys and gear on hand to borrow or rent. You can also buy boogie boards—an easy-to-learn way to play in the surf—for as little as $10 at any drug store or discount store near the beach. That’s also a budget-friendly way to pick up sandcastle-making toys, sunscreen, hats, and flip-flops.

3. Maximize your time at the theme parks. Staying at one of the on-site hotels can get you early entry—usually an hour earlier than the scheduled opening time—but sometimes just buying your tickets online (like at Universal Studios Hollywood) can get you an extra hour with shorter lines. Also, check the park’s website for express-lane services (like Disneyland Resort’s Fastpasses) so that you can make the most of your time all day.

4. Expect (some) admission discounts. Kids and teens often get in free, or at a discount, at most museums and other attractions around the Golden State. San Diego has a "Kids Free October" program that is valid at many museums and other attractions, including SeaWorld and LEGOLAND. That said, don’t expect much of a break at other theme parks, or at other times. Full-price admission may start as low as age 10.

5. Measure your kids. Before you commit to a theme park for the day, check out the rides page on its website to see the height minimums, to make sure there are enough rides that your children will be able to enjoy. Also, get the lay of the land from the theme park’s online map, to plot your day’s path efficiently and delay the onset of tired feet.

6. Book ahead for camping. National parks such as Yosemite have well-established schedules for opening up camp sites for reservations, and good spots can go fast—up to six months ahead of time. For last-minute spots, check a park’s campgrounds online to find availability.

7. Don’t miss the Junior Ranger programs at state and national parks. The free handouts and activities available at California national parks and state parks give kids a fun, hands-on way to explore the park. At Lassen Volcanic National Park, for instance, the activity booklet lists different hot springs and volcanic rocks for kids to look for and check off. At Antelope Valley California Poppy Preserve, meanwhile, a nature-oriented bingo card motivates kids to keep an eye out for lizards, meadowlarks, and beetles, as well as California’s state flower. Ask for any handouts at the park’s visitors center, or download them from its website.

8. Plan a ski trip that moves at everyone’s pace. California ski resorts offer a wide range of age-specific lessons and activities—some with kids’ clubs that last half or full days, so that everyone gets plenty of time to ski or board at their own skill level. At Squaw Valley, for instance, about 65 percent of the trails are suitable for beginner and intermediate skiers, and Sierra-at-Tahoe has an 11-acre learning terrain called Easy Street. Off-the-slope activities abound as well, like Mammoth’s beloved Woolly’s Tube Park, or the 30-foot climbing wall at Big Bear and Snow Summit’s Basecamp. Meanwhile, even if your kids’ spring break falls as late as April, you’ll still find plenty of California snow.

9. Bring lots of sunscreen. Beach days certainly call for solid SPF, but you’ll also need sunscreen while skiing. California’s ski resorts are known for their wealth of blue bird snow days, which results in plenty of reflection off the slopes.

10. Don’t assume that wine-tasting is off the table. Not all wineries and craft breweries welcome kids, but many do—offering games, play areas, and kids’ dining menus so that the family can enjoy a visit together. Check the individual wineries’ or breweries’ websites before you go to make sure kids will be welcome and happily occupied.

11. Don’t be afraid to take the kids to a nice dinner. In California, cutting-edge restaurants are often not white-tablecloth–type places, and many even have good kids’ menus—like the tamales and quesadillas at L.A.’s acclaimed Border Grill, or the prix fixe kids’ menu at San Francisco’s Rintaro, which Bon Appétit named one of the best restaurants of 2015. When in doubt, call ahead and ask when making a reservation; most hotels keep lists of reputable babysitting services at the front desk, and can help you hire a great sitter to come to your hotel room. 

 

'57 Chevy
Nell Kremer/Flickr

General Information for Travelers

General Information for Travelers
The Basics

Need to reset your watch? Call for help? Find out details for disabled access? Here’s a roundup of basic information to help you plan your trip, and to know what to expect and where to turn for help when you get here.

Time Zone

California is in the Pacific Time Zone (Greenwich Mean Time minus 8 hours). The state observes daylight savings time from early March to early November.

State and Local Taxes

The statewide sales tax is 7.25%. Local taxes may add up to 1.5% to your total bill.

Tipping

A general rule of thumb is to tip servers in restaurants between 15% and 20%, depending on level of service, and bartenders a dollar for each drink (beer, glass of wine, simple cocktail, etc.), unless it’s a more complicated specialty cocktail. Include 15% to 20% for a taxi or limo driver, and a few dollars for an Uber or Lyft driver.

Directory Assistance

For local numbers, dial 411; for long distance, dial 1 plus the area code plus 555-1212; for toll-free numbers, call (800) 555-1212.

Emergency Assistance

You can call 911 toll-free from any public telephone to obtain emergency police, fire, or medical assistance.

Liquor/Tobacco Laws

Alcohol is sold throughout California to people age 21 and older. The legal drinking age is 21.

You must be age 18 or older to purchase tobacco products in the state. Smoking and e-cigarette use is prohibited in all public buildings (including restaurants, bars, and casinos) and enclosed spaces throughout California. It is illegal to smoke within 20 feet of doorways or windows of government buildings. Most large hotels have designated smoking rooms; if you smoke, request one—most hotels will fine guests who smoke inside a non-smoking room. Many cities in California have passed ordinances prohibiting smoking in public areas such as on sidewalks and at beaches, and smoking is prohibited in some national and state park buildings and areas.

State Size & Drive Times

California is big—really big. If you were to drive the length of the state on Interstate 5, it would take you an estimated 15 hours, with little or no traffic, to get from Oregon to Mexico. At the end of your road trip, you’d have driven nearly 900 miles.

Downtown San Diego is less than 20 miles north of the Mexican border and about 130 miles south of Los Angeles. From Los Angeles, it’s 385 miles north to San Francisco and from there, another 90 miles northeast to Sacramento. You’d put about 190 miles on your car driving from San Francisco to Yosemite National Park, and about 600 miles driving from Los Angeles to Mount Shasta in Northern California. Needless to say, California is ideal for road trips

Traveling with Disabilities

Visitors who have physical or other challenges can still have a fantastic time in California. Special services are widely available, and access to trails, buildings, and attractions is continually being improved. Here are some helpful resources.

Wheelchair Access

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) states that all public buildings must be wheelchair accessible and have accessible restrooms. Most hotels and attractions are now outfitted with wide doorways and wheelchair ramps. City streets now feature a growing number of sidewalk corners with dropped curbs, and some public transit vehicles are equipped with lifts. Many state and national parks now have fully accessible ADA trails. If you need details, call destinations and services in advance.

Help for Hearing & Memory Impaired

If you have limitations seeing, hearing, speaking, remembering, or moving which affects your ability to make or receive phone calls, dial 711 to have a specially trained communications assistant relay telephone conversations for all of your calls while you are in California.

Many movie theaters and performance spaces have special headsets to help you hear; ask when you purchase or pick up your tickets.

Transportation & Rental Cars

Major airports can provide on-site assistance to and from flights, including wheelchairs; call your airline in advance for details. Some rental car companies offer specially outfitted vehicles with hand controls, wheelchair accessibility, and other assistive devices. Amtrak train service provides added services for passengers with disabilities, as well as a 15% discount on regular travel fares.

 

A sunset on Arroyo Burry Beach
Damian Gadal/Flickr

Weather & Timing Your Visit

Weather & Timing Your Visit
Learn more about California's renowned climate

California is a year-round destination, with weather that has something for everyone, from sun worshippers to snow bunnies. The best time to visit really comes down to what you want to see and do. Here’s some general information to help you know what to expect statewide.

Weather & Seasons

Much of California has a Mediterranean-like climate with warm, dry summers and mild, wet winters. On the coast, the average daily high temperature hovers around 70°F and up, but can occasionally spike to 80°F or more on hottest summer days; freezing temperatures are rare, even in winter. The state’s legendary fog often hugs the coast from roughly Monterey north, usually during summer months; it often burns off by midday before rolling in again at dusk. Farther inland, summers are hot and dry, winters cool and wet, with occasional brilliant blue days and temperatures cold enough to freeze puddles on the ground, but not much more than that. At higher altitudes, the weather reflects more of a four-season cycle, with beautiful summers, striking fall color, and cold, snowy winters followed by snowmelt springs (waterfall season!).

As you cruise this site, check out the average temperature by season for the regions and destinations you are considering.

Timing Your Visit

Most vacationers head to California during the peak summer months (June through August); that’s when you can expect the biggest crowds at top attractions, and high-season rates at lodgings and resorts. But even in the midst of summer it’s possible to hop off the beaten path and have forests, fields, and even beaches almost to yourself.

If you love the high country, you might need to wait until summer to access the highest roads and trails through the Sierra Nevada, as well routes into wilderness areas around Mount Shasta and Lassen Peak, the state’s tallest volcanoes.

Springtime (typically March through early May) is one of California’s most beautiful times of year. Although it can still be cold at higher elevations, temperatures are comfortable and fresh throughout much of the state. Hillsides are blanketed with lush green grass and wildflowers. California’s deserts, awash with poppies, paintbrush, and other desert blooms, are much more pleasant during the spring than during the scorching heat of summer. During these months, you’ll also encounter shorter lines and better deals: Many of the state’s top tourist attractions are still operating at a slower pace, and hotels often charge low-season rates until June.

Autumn (September through November) brings mild weather and, in some parts of the state, spectacular foliage (especially the High Sierra). This is a great time to visit California’s beautiful wine regions during grape harvest time, known as “the crush” (generally August to October). The San Francisco and North Coast regions, often shrouded in fog during summer, typically see some of their sunniest days during “Indian summer,” (September through October).

If you plan to ski, snow usually coats the mountains November to March, with some resorts staying open into April or beyond. (If Mother Nature is fickle, snow-making equipment often supplements with amazingly good manmade snow.) Look for downhill runs for skiers and boarders, terrain parks, cross-country and snowshoe trails, and ice-skating rinks.

 

 

A California produce field at sunset

California Welcome Centers

California Welcome Centers
Local travel experts share resources and ideas statewide

Anyone who’s traveled to an unfamiliar area with the intention of experiencing as much as possible knows how invaluable the knowledge of a local can be. There is no better resource, and having it can make the difference between a ho-hum trip and a truly memorable one.

It’s the mission of each of the 18 California Welcome Centers scattered throughout the state to enable all visitors to have the best experience possible, and they take that local-is-best approach to heart. Each one is staffed with personal travel concierges, knowledgeable experts who are ready to provide information that will enhance and enrich your visit no matter what your focus is—the arts, local culture, family activities, sports, the great outdoors, shopping, or all of the above. They’ll have advice on what and where to eat, where to stay, and how to get there. Welcome Centers also offer free maps and brochures on local attractions, state and national parks in the area, and things to see and do.

From the North Coast to the Deserts, California’s Welcome Centers will help you discover the best the Golden State has to offer. See below for more information on all of them, organized by region.

 

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA

Shasta Cascade (Anderson)

Gold Country (Auburn, El Dorado Hills)

San Francisco Bay Area (San Francisco, Santa Rosa)

High Sierra (Truckee)

 

CENTRAL CALIFORNIA

High Sierra (Mammoth Lakes)

Central Valley (Merced)

Central Coast (Gilroy, Pismo Beach, Salinas)

 

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

Los Angeles County (Los Angeles)

Orange County (San Clemente)

Deserts (Barstow, Yucca Valley)

San Diego County (Oceanside, San Diego Cross Border Express)

Inland Empire (Ontario)

The California sky at dusk

Traveling by Plane

Traveling by Plane
Flying is easy in the Golden State, with international and domestic airports statewide

California is big—nearly 800 miles from the Oregon border to the north all the way to the Mexican border just south of San Diego, and an average of roughly 200 miles wide. Fortunately, California also has a lot of airports, so flying is relatively easy, and a great way to get around the state, especially if your time is limited. Easy airport access also makes fly/drive vacations an attractive option.

We've highlighted 13 of the state’s airports, 10 of which have flights that travel nonstop to international locations. Some rank as destinations in themselves with museum-quality artwork installations—see what’s going on at the LAX Art Program, the Arts Program at John Wayne International Airport in Orange County, and the Public Art Program at San Francisco International Airport. Fresno Yosemite International Airport has an Art at the Airport program showcased in the Arts Lounge, featuring works created by a diverse selection of Central Valley artists, as well as live music performances and photography exhibits.

Of course, many airports also feature outstanding shopping, fine dining, bars pouring local craft beer, and even spoil-yourself spas (because getting a massage really is better than sitting in a plastic chair while you wait for your flight).

If flying into Los Angeles, one should know: LAX is the biggest and most well-known airport in the area, but depending on where you plan to be spending time in the city, it may not be the best choice. Burbank, Long Beach, John Wayne, and Ontario international airports also serve the region.

 

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA

Oakland (OAK)

San Francisco (SFO)

San José (SJC)

 

CENTRAL CALIFORNIA

Fresno Yosemite (FAT)

Sacramento (SMF)

Santa Barbara (SBA)

 

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

Bakersfield (BFL)

Burbank (BUR)

Long Beach (LBG)

Los Angeles (LAX)

Ontario (ONT)

Orange County (SNA)

San Diego (SAN)

A view of the beach at Post Ranch Inn
Brett Colbert/Flickr

Where to Stay

Where to Stay
Learn more about the fantastic and varied lodging options in the Golden State

Whether you dream of a posh suite overlooking the ocean, a boutique hotel in the heart of a city, a full-service resort, or a serene campsite under the stars, California has the perfect place to spend the night. Book a stay at a major chain almost anywhere in the state, or consider accommodations as distinctive as California itself—handsome stone-and-timber mountain lodges, restored Gold Rush hotels, snug inns, and ultra-exclusive retreats in one-of-a-kind settings. There are also millions of acres of unforgettable parkland where all you need is a tent, a sleeping bag, marshmallows, and a few good campfire stories. (And, maybe, a reservation.)

California Welcome Centers and local tourism agencies can offer good suggestions for all types of lodging, including resorts, hotels, and motels.

Hotels & Motels

Hotels and motels are the tried-and-true standard for most vacations—providing a safe, clean, and comfortable place to go to sleep at night. They’re important here. Remember, California invented the motel back in the 1920s. Top chains are well represented statewide, and are often located in larger metropolitan areas and near tourist attractions and travel routes. Boutique hotels tend to offer a more intimate and luxuriously stylish environment for travelers. In more rural areas, consider independently owned lodgings, some in historic buildings.

Bed & Breakfasts

California has hundreds of B&Bs, many in historic homes or hotels and a growing number at family-run (and family-friendly) farms, ranches, and vineyards. B&Bs can give a sense of the region's local character, with helpful innkeepers happy to share insider travel tips. Your stay also includes breakfast—imagine, just-baked scones, fresh eggs, or strawberries from the garden. To reserve a stay at one of the nearly 200 B&Bs and inns listed with it statewide, visit the California Association of Boutique & Breakfast Inns (CABBI).

Resorts

Certain parts of the state—the Deserts region, coastal communities, mountain resort towns—are renowned for five-star retreats, with many championship golf courses and tennis complexes, spectacular swimming pools, destination restaurants, and elegant spas (often open to the public). California’s celebrated wine regions also have ultra-luxe retreats, with romantic settings, unparalleled farm-to-table cuisine, and, of course, incredible wine lists. Many resorts also offer special activities for kids, like movie-and-popcorn nights, so parents can enjoy time alone while their children have experienced childcare. Weddings and reunions can book private event spaces and exclusive catering services. For top resorts statewide, check California Welcome Centers and local tourism agencies.

Camping

In California, camping is everything it should be—pitch your tent under the stars at campgrounds scented with pine trees, next to alpine lakes and desert oases, or on a spectacular stretch of coastline. If “roughing it” isn't your style, try “glamping,” or glamorous camping, in outdoor settings with fully equipped tents or rustic cabins or even Mongolian-style yurts.

Or, consider renting a ready-to-roll RV; check individual campsites in advance for any RV restrictions. 

You can also backpack deep into California's expansive wilderness areas—just be sure you have a permit before you head out (check individual locations for permit requirements).



Many state and national parks permit camping. Some popular locations such as Yosemite and Sequoia/Kings Canyon tend to fill up months in advance, so reserve as early as possible. Federal lands operated by the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, and U.S. Fish & Wildlife, also have thousands of campsites, which are often uncrowded, even during the summer months. There are also many outstanding private campgrounds statewide.

 

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Driving in California

Driving in California
Take to the roads with this helpful information and safety tips

California is made for road trips. An easy-to-navigate network of more than 50,000 miles of good-quality highways and freeways link just about every corner of the state, with secondary routes leading to even more under-the-radar finds. Some of these roads are famous—Highway 1 along the Pacific Coast, legendary Route 66, and Avenue of the Giants (Highway 101 winding through towering redwoods). Some are workhorses—most notably Interstates 5 and 80—getting drivers (and truckers) up and across the state as quickly as possible. But even these heavy-lifters can lead you to surprising destinations.

No matter where you drive, remember the basic rules of the road. Below is a rundown of the laws everyone should know before getting behind a wheel in California, along with a few resources to get the road information you need.

Mandatory Personal Safety Measures

California law states that everyone in a vehicle must wear a seatbelt, and motorcyclists must wear a helmet.

Speed Limits

Speed limits are posted in miles per hour (mph). Generally, the speed limit on multilane freeways is 65 mph, though in some areas it is 70 mph. On two-lane highways, the limit is generally 55 mph. The speed limit on city streets is usually 35 mph, though in residential areas and near schools, the limit is generally 25 mph.

Speed Limit Enforcement

In many area of California, speed limits are enforced by aircraft, meaning excessive speeds are detected from the air by an aircraft you can’t see, then radioed in to a police car which will pull you over. There are also speed-detecting roadside cameras. The best policy is to maintain a speed within the speed limit.

Eyes-on-the-Road Laws

It is against the law in California to write, send, or read text-based messages while driving, and drivers must use a hands-free device when speaking on a mobile phone.

Carpool Lanes

Along freeways with heavy traffic, carpool lanes (also called “diamond lanes” for the diamond-shape pattern painted on the lane’s surfaces) are identified by black-and-white signs that include details on times and days of enforcement (usually during peak rush hour periods on weekdays). To drive in most carpool lanes, you must have at least two people (including the driver) in the car (some lanes in the San Francisco Bay Area have a three-person minimum). Tempted to use the lane when you don’t have the required number of riders? Don’t—fines are staggeringly high, close to $400 in some areas. In the Los Angeles area, carpool lanes may have specific entry and exit zones; adhere to them or you could get a hefty fine for that as well. 

Snow Travel

Extreme weather can result in cars and trucks being required to use chains and/or snow tires. At times, it may even cause mountain routes to be closed. Check restrictions and closures before you go.

Drivers Handbook

The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) publishes an online version of its Driver Handbook, which thoroughly explains the state’s rules of the road.

Emergency Help

Report an accident, crime, or unsafe driver by calling 911 from any phone.

Luxury rental cars in the lot
João André O. Dias/Flickr

Car & RV Rental

Car & RV Rental
Choose from quality vehicles that match your needs and style

Get ready to roll. With its mild climate, outstanding highway system, and nonstop-gorgeous scenery, California stands out as the perfect place for a road trip. And renting a car here is about as easy as it gets. Whether your trip itinerary is a statewide tour of California’s greatest hits, an all-in-the-family visit to iconic theme parks, or an off-the-beaten-track adventure, there’s a vehicle to match your mood and style—snazzy convertibles, family-friendly vans, rugged SUVs and pickups that can handle all types of conditions (including snow), even campers and RVs. All with good road assistance and optional insurance policies.   

Car rentals are available throughout the state; most major companies have locations at the larger airports and in convenient city locations. To rent a car in California, you must be at least 25 years old (in most cases) and have a valid driver's license and credit card (used as a security deposit). Non-U.S. citizens must have passports. Rates may vary, with factors including location, car size and style, accessories (a child safety seat or in-car GPS, for example, may be extra), and the day of the week that you rent. Picking up and dropping off a vehicle at different locations can also increase rates. For the best deal, try booking a car at the same time you reserve your flights.

We've compiled a list of reputable companies with rental outlets statewide. Check charges in advance; there are lots of options including insurance coverage and extras, so be sure you get what you need and know what you’re paying for before you drive away. Companies may also offer a pre-pay fuel plan with discounted prices, worth considering if you know you’re likely to use up at least one full tank of gas.

If you’ve never driven in the state, you may want to read through this brief overview of statewide laws and rules of the road before getting behind the wheel. To find out about any road closures, travel alerts or updates on conditions, visit Caltrans.

Travel Tips & Information VCW_D_NC_T8-Engine #45 at NSP (fall of 2008)

Train Travel

Train Travel
Trains let you sightsee stress-free while you get around the Golden State

Another fun way to explore California is to travel by train—a great way to enjoy the scenery instead of focusing on the road ahead. Amtrak’s legendary Coast Starlight and Pacific Surfliner trains follow ultra-scenic routes up and down the coast. The Capitol Corridor provides an easy east-west route across Northern California, while the San Joaquin slices through the broad and sunny Central Valley with connections to Yosemite National Park and other destinations. Along the way, there are options to link to Amtrak Thruway buses, which serve more than 90 destinations statewide. (Plus, you can disembark and rent a car at major stops to do additional exploring.) Depending on the route, you may be able to book a space in a special sleeping car, with access to an exclusive parlor car.

Local & Scenic Railways

Though Amtrak is the largest train service in the state, it’s not the only way to roll. In Northern California, Caltrain has regular service between San Francisco and San Jose. In Southern California, Metrolink offers service on seven regional lines that connect L.A., Ventura County, Antelope Valley, San Bernardino, Riverside, Orange County, and the Inland Empire. Trains dedicated to certain themes and in specific locales, such as the Napa Valley Wine Train, also provide a unique way to see some of California’s premier destinations.

Amtrak's East/West Routes
California Zephyr: Chicago–Denver–Emeryville (San Francisco)
Capitol Corridor: Auburn–Sacramento–Emeryville (San Francisco)–Oakland–San José
Sunset Limited: New Orleans–San Antonio–Los Angeles
Amtrak's North/South Routes
Coast Starlight (multi-state route): Seattle–Portland–Los Angeles
Los Angeles Metro tracks
Neil Kremer

Public Transportation

Public Transportation
Learn more about getting around California without a vehicle

For an easy and often fun way to get around California’s larger cities and communities, do what an increasing number of locals do and hitch a ride on a bus, subway, ferry, or light rail system. Using public transportation can be an efficient, affordable, safe, and eco-friendly option, particularly in areas where roads, parking, and urban traffic can be confusing and frustrating. Some transit systems let you buy multi-day passes; check ticket options online before you arrive to get the best deals. Two companies, CityPass and Go, also offer deals on local transportation options in San Francisco and Southern California. 

True to the spirit of nature conservation that inspired its founding, Yosemite National Park has its own public transportation: Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System. YARTS buses travel from Merced, Mammoth Lakes, Sonora, and Fresno, as well as many smaller towns along the way, into the park. There are also shuttles from Visalia to Sequoia National Park and a free in-park shuttle that makes several stops, including all the campgrounds.

Buses are ideal for longer trips around the state too. Greyhound is the nation’s primary long-distance bus company, offering routes linking big cities and rural destinations statewide (and heading out of state too).

Amtrak’s extensive network of rails and thruway buses is another easy and efficient way to see the Golden State without your own vehicle. Particularly notable lines for visitors include the San Joaquin line, which will take you straight into Yosemite, the Coast Starlight and Pacific Surfliner trains that roll along scenic routes up and down the coast, and the Capitol Corridor which travels east-west in the northern part of the state. Though it’s the most extensive, the Amtrak isn’t the only rail service. Caltrain operates in the Bay area and Metrolink connects much of Southern California.

Below are links to California’s major regional transit organizations; most offer a variety of travel options, such as buses, subways, and light rail, trains, and in some cases, ferry boats. For more local information on transit options in Northern California, visit 511.org.

 

Buses: Statewide

Greyhound

Megabus

Flixbus

 

Buses & Subways; Northern California

SF Bay Area Transportation Directory

Bay Area Rapid Transit

Sacramento Regional Transit

Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (San José)

 

Buses and Subways, Southern California 

Los Angeles Dept. of Transportation

Los Angeles Metro 

San Diego Metropolitan Transit System

 

Trains: Statewide

Amtrak California

Caltrain

Metrolink

 

Ferries

Details on All San Francisco Bay Ferries 

Alcatraz Cruises (San Francisco)

Angel Island Ferry (San Francisco)

Blue & Gold Fleet (Scenic Cruises, Marin County Destinations)

Golden Gate Ferry (San Francisco)

Red & White Fleet (Scenic Cruises, Marin County Destinations)

Vallejo Bay Ferry (San Francisco Bay Area)

Island Packers (Channel Islands)

Catalina Express (Santa Catalina; L.A.)

Cycling along Highway 1
Mike Basher/Offset

8 Tips for Cycling in California

8 Tips for Cycling in California
Want to see the Golden State by bike? Use these tips to make the most of your ride

1. Learn the basic road laws. Ride in the direction of traffic and use the bicycle lanes when available. California law says you must ride as close to the right side as possible, unless the road is too narrow to be shared—in which case you are allowed to “take the lane.” (Not all motorists understand this, though, so always take precaution in this situation.) The California Bicycle Coalition outlines all the bike laws to know before you ride.

2. Wear this, not that. Cyclists under 18 must wear a helmet, but realistically it’s a good idea for everyone. And if you need to hear your playlist while you ride, keep it to one ear—a law passed in 2016 does not allow for headphones in both ears.

3. Nervous on the road? Find protected trails. Road riding isn’t for everyone, and California has miles upon miles of protected road. Go to traillink.com and type in a specific city and it will show you the distance, surface type, and mileage of routes in the area. Or start by reading Bicycling magazine’s list of the best bike paths in California.

4. Research your route. Check out bike mobile app Strava’s city guides for routes in Bakersfield, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Francisco, and more—coffee shops and photo ops included. Also, the California Bike Coalition has a solid list of free online maps for routes from Humboldt County down to San Diego. Check out routes in the Central Coast at CycleCalCoast. You can also get turn-by-turn directions using Google maps: Dark green lines denote protected bike trails (read: no cars), light green lines show dedicated bike lanes, and dashed green lines indicate bicycle-friendly roads.

5. Consider a cycling event. Start by choosing an enticing ride and let that inspire your trip planning. On any given weekend, you’ll find dozens of cycling events throughout California. Want to tackle a century (100 miles) in wine country? Attend a mountain biking clinic? Check the event calendars on SoCalCycling.comRaceplace.com, or Active.com for ideas.

6. Try a cycling tour. An organized bike tour can be a simplified, luxurious way to see new parts of California. Dozens of companies—including BackroadsTrek TravelBicycle AdventuresDuVine, and many more—offer trips everywhere from Joshua Tree to wine country to the northern coast, and they often include gourmet local cuisine and overnight stays at high-end resorts.

7. Find a group. Local cycling clubs often have group rides for all levels, either through a local shop or otherwise. USA Cycling has a fairly comprehensive list of clubs, but sometimes just walking into the local bike shop and asking is the easiest way to get info.

8. Watch the Amgen Tour of California in person. If there’s one way to get inspired, watching a world-class bike event is it. With Tour de France-level riders cycling throughout California every May, the Amgen Tour of California presents a rare opportunity to see a pro peloton up close.