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Travel Tips from California Locals

From Sonoma County to Santa Barbara to San Diego, seasoned locals recommend their favorite spots to eat, play, and explore

Here's a good rule of thumb if you want to have an amazing time in California: Do as the locals do.

On this episode of the California Now Podcast, host Soterios Johnson talks to three longtime Californians who are absolutely enamored with where they live—women eager to pass on that love to anyone who ventures into town.

Johnson starts things off with Guerneville-based Chef Crista Luedtke: They discuss the most enticing food, drinks, and outdoor fun to be had in west Sonoma County. The Boon Hotel + Spa owner and Guy's Grocery Games regular shares an impressive list of recommendations that might entice you to add this wine country destination to your next Golden State itinerary.

Next up, Johnson meets Santa Barbara-based author and tour guide Tara Jones Haaf. On her food tours, Haaf reveals, she will not only turn you on to some of the best bites in town, but she'll also make you a better photographer along the way. And she can tell you exactly how the famous Santa Barbara Funk Zone got its name. (Hint, it's not what you might expect!)

Finally, Johnson connects with Elexia de la Parra, owner of the popular folk art shop Artelexia in San Diego's North Park neighborhood. De la Parra’s passion for this colorful and welcoming neighborhood is infectious, and she can rattle off at least a dozen stellar recommendations—including shopping tips —within just a few blocks of her store.

Sponsor: Destination Irvine

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Crista Luedtke, chef, restaurateur and hotelier in Guerneville

Tara Jones Haaf, founder of Eat This, Shoot That! food tours in Santa Barbara

Elexia de la Parra, owner of Artelexia in San Diego


From the moment Crista Luedtke first set foot in Guerneville, she knew she'd found the perfect place to call home (and start a few businesses).


Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve

Boon Hotel + Spa

Boon Eat + Drink

El Barrio Bar

Brot Restaurant

The Highlands Resort

Jenner Kayaks

Jenner Headlands Preserve


The River’s End

Duncans Mills

Islands in the Sky Hike

Cafe Aquatica

Rio Nido Roadhouse

The Russian River Pub


SingleThread Farms

Bodega Bay


Spud Point Crab Co.

Timber Cove Resort

Fort Ross State Historic Park

Iron Horse Vineyards

Barlow Market

Pax Wines

Spirit Works Distillery

Ryme Cellars


Porter Creek Vineyards

Flowers Vineyard

Preston Farm and Winery

Dry Creek Valley

Author, tour guide, and Santa Barbara local Tara Jones Haaf says the best way to start your exploration of a new destination is to find out where the locals eat.

Santa Barbara

Eat This, Shoot That!

100 Things to Do in Santa Barbara Before You Die

Funk Zone

Cutler's Artisan Spirits

Helena Avenue Bakery

Mony’s Mexican Food

Flor de Maiz

Alice Keck Park Memorial Garden

Santa Barbara County Courthouse

Courthouse Gardens

El Presidio


Aebleskiver at Solvang Restaurant

Olsen's Danish Village Bakery

Santa Ynez Valley Wine Tasting

The Double Dolphin

Santa Barbara Sailing Center

Folk art shop Artelexia owner Elexia de la Parra says she delights in helping people who constantly pop into her shop looking for recommendations for local eats, sights, and recommendations in San Diego’s North Park neighborhood.


San Diego


North Park

Holsem Coffee

Dark Horse Coffee Roasters

El Comal

California Taproom (Pretzels & Pints)

Shank & Bône

Dunedin New Zealand Eats


Señor Mango’s


Bottlecraft Beer Shop and Bar

About the Host

Soterios Johnson, formerly the local host of National Public Radio’s Morning Edition on radio station WNYC, moved from New York City to Davis in 2016. By combining his journalistic instincts with his personal curiosity, Johnson uses the California Now Podcast platform to develop a deeper understanding of his adopted home.

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