California dreaming

California continues to promote its fun-loving, free-spirited vibe through a new campaign #californiadreamstory, where dreamers and schemers can share their own personal California story. Pam Jones provides five picks for places to visit in the Golden State, both at its gateway and off the beaten track.

 

Bart Simpson and co. join in the fun at the opening of Springfield USA at Universal Studios Hollywood. Photo by Universal Studios Hollywood.
Bart Simpson and co. join in the fun at the opening of Springfield USA at Universal Studios Hollywood. Photo by Universal Studios Hollywood.

1. Last year 44.2 million people visited the city of angels and LA's target is 50 million visitors annually by 2020.

If you're hopping on for the ride, you may end up at Universal Studios Hollywood, reported to be the most visited attraction in LA.

Bart Simpson and friends now welcome visitors at UniversalStudios' newly opened Springfield USA, and a "Fast and Furious - Supercharged'' high octane thrill ride is scheduled to open on June 25.

But hold on to your hats for the next big attraction - The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, opening in the northern summer next year.

It's billed as "a new level of hyper-realism'', complete with 3D HD technology and high definition imagery.

California sunshine greets visitors to Avila beach  in the San Luis Obispo region. Photo by visitsanluisobispocounty.com
California sunshine greets visitors to Avila beach in the San Luis Obispo region. Photo by visitsanluisobispocounty.com

2. If you then need a quiet wine, head north to the San Luis Obispo region, the heart of California's Central Coast, halfway between LA and San Francisco.

Known for its charming coastal towns and fantastic wine, the area offers picture postcard pastoral country in its south, and dramatic cliffs and crashing waves further north.

Either way, sampling the region's award-winning wines and outstanding cuisine is a recipe for travelling success, incorporating culinary, coastal and cultural adventures.

The surf's not bad either.

A panoramic vista entices visitors to Auberge  on the Vineyard in Sonoma County. Photo by Sonoma County Tourism.
A panoramic vista entices visitors to Auberge on the Vineyard in Sonoma County. Photo by Sonoma County Tourism.

3. If you're still seeking wine, venture further north to Sonoma County, 45 minutes north of San Francisco. The picturesque region boasts 400-plus wineries (the county aims to have all its wineries classified as having sustainable practices within the next few years), redwood forests, a great calendar of festivals and events and a little bit of adventure: try kayaking, cycling and whale watching.

4. If you've got a touch of gold fever, California's Gold Country mixes grapes with gold, showcasing more great California wine as it mixes historic goldmining stories with the scenic and sophisticated.

Counties such as El Dorado offer year-round outdoor adventure: gold panning, whitewater rafting, fishing and skiing.

El Dorado is one of California's oldest wine-producing areas, where vineyards first flourished during the 19th century gold rush, and a renaissance of winemaking saw a new growth of premium vineyards and wineries in the 1970s.

Visitors relax in Ruhstaller Brewery's taproom, Sacramento. Photo by Visit Sacramento.
Visitors relax in Ruhstaller Brewery's taproom, Sacramento. Photo by Visit Sacramento.

5. Need some more great food and wine?

You can't go past Sacramento, where its farming and culinary practices are married up and marketed as the "Farm-to-Fork Capital of America''.

Sample one of its more than 50 farmers markets, go on a farm, wine or culinary tour (or mix all three through the "dinners on the farm'' initiative) and then toast the region's thriving craft beer industry at one of its boutique breweries.

About 30 local breweries operate in and around the city of Sacramento, and many of them source their ingredients locally, ensuring unique flavour profiles and truly local beers.

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