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What If: Exploring California

Consider the culinary, family, and luxury possibilities available across the Golden State

What would you eat if you could elbow up to any table anywhere in California? Where would you go if you could take the ultimate kid-friendly Golden State vacation? And what California luxuries would you indulge in if money was no object?

These are the questions host Soterios Johnson investigates in this episode of the California Now Podcast. The answers, in case you’re wondering, are nearly infinite, since the state is all about abundance and variety.

Our host is first joined by San Diego–based food writer and frequent Guy's Grocery Games culinary judge Troy Johnson, who shares his favorite bites up and down the California coast. Next, Johnson talks to journalist Kelly Mickle for some tips on taking an epic family vacation. (Pro tip: Get up early to find the hidden gems.) Finally, Johnson chats with Dino Michael, Hilton Senior Vice President, to discuss over-the-top experiences ranging from perfectly situated hotel rooms to In-N-Out Burger runs in an Aston Martin convertible.

Sponsor: California’s Central Coast

Head out on the Original Road Trip and explore California’s Central Coast—350 miles of the world’s most beautiful coastline. This incomparable region stretches from Ventura just north of Los Angeles to Santa Clara south of San Francisco. Discover the Central Coast to find a true California vacation, complete with coastal roads, Pacific sunsets, national and state parks, world-class wine regions, and classic beach towns.


Troy Johnson, San Diego Magazine food writer and Guy's Grocery Games judge

Kelly Mickle, journalist and Condé Nast Traveler contributor

Dino Michael, Senior Vice President and Global Category Head of Luxury Brands at Hilton


Food writer Troy Johnson likes to make himself hungry thinking of the bevy of delicious culinary options available from San Diego to Sonoma County.

San Diego

Ocean Beach


Banker's Hill Bar & Restaurant


Los Angeles


Fatima's Grill

Foreign Cinema


Moshin Vineyards

Bricoleur Vineyards


Journalist Kelly Mickle says there's a perfect family vacation to be had just about everywhere in California, from big cities to the desert.

Joshua Tree National Park

Big Sur

San Clemente

Newport Beach

Duffy Boats

Lido Marina Village

The Crab Cooker

Joshua Tree Hiking Trails

Pismo Beach

Elephant Seal Beach

Hearst Castle

San Simeon


Fernwood Resort

El Capitan Canyon

Descanso Gardens

Hilton luxury insider Dino Michael says indulging in bespoke experiences does not necessarily have to break the bank.

LXR Hotels & Resorts

Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills

Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach Resort & Club

La Quinta Resort and Club

Coachella Valley

Oceana Hotel

Santa Monica


In-N-Out Burger

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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