Camp at Big Sur Campground
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Big Sur is a rocky stretch of the central coast of California; ideal for long drives on the State Route 1 that hugs the cliffs in long, winding turns. The area has numerous state parks for hiking and camping. The Big Sur campgrounds are located amongst towering Coastal Redwood trees with the option of staying in tents on the forest floor or in cabins with fireplaces.
Dine at Chez Panisse
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It’s an incredible feat to run a restaurant for almost four decades. Chef Alice Waters pioneered the movement focusing on locally grown, seasonal ingredients. Another innovation of hers was to create long-lasting relationships with the farmers that supplied her restaurants. The menu changes every night but whenever you’re there, you’ll be sure to have one of the most memorable meals of your life.
Bliss Out at Ciel Spa at SLS
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LA is just a little obsessed with living the healthy life – with plenty of yoga, soul cycle, juice bars, locals know what’s good for them. That includes looking after their skin, and L.A. has some of the best spas in the state. If you’re a minimalist, you’ll appreciate Ciel Spa – it’s crisp, all-white interior is immediately calming. Try an algae detox wrap or Le Lift facial, which stimulates the epidermis and leaves you with luminous skin.
Marvel at the Murals at the Mission District in San Francisco
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Once home to working-class Latin American families, this area has gentrified and is now hipster central, with cool boutiques and music shops. Head out on foot and make sure to stop at Balmy Alley, with the most murals of anywhere in the city of all different styles and subjects. Next stop is the Women’s Building, with a four-storey mural celebrating female independence. After a day on your feet, recharge at one of the area’s excellent taquerias.
Go on a Personalised Tour of Napa Valley’s Most Popular Winery
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V. Sattui Winery is the most visited winery in the valley for good reason. If the formalities of tasting rooms turn you off, you’ll love this one – there are barbeques and special events all the time, along with an on-site deli and beautiful grounds for a picnic.
Watch the surfers at Surfrider Beach
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One of the state’s iconic beaches – if you’ve seen a postcard of Malibu it’s probably of this beach. It’s popular, but worth it to watch the surfers or chat to the local characters after a beer and lunch on the pier. There’s also a lagoon near by which is home to a variety of coastal birds.
Soak in the Buckeye Hot Springs at Mammoth Lakes
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On the edge of a volcanic caldera, there’s plenty of natural hot springs to soak your weary bones in. The Buckeye Hot Springs are fed by a constant flow of water and when you are sufficiently warm, you can jump into the neighbouring creek to cool off. Camp under the stars afterwards, and wake up completely relaxed
Taste the Best Wine from the Central Coast at Santa Barbara Festival of Food and Wine
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Dubbed the American Riviera, Santa Barbara is an (mistakenly) overlooked area of California. With golden hills, Spanish-infused architecture and long stretches of beach, it’s worth a detour. The area also has numerous vineyards – sample the best cool-climate drops from the region at the festival, held in summer annually. Food is provided from 30 different local producers.
Eat Your Fill of Tacos and Ceviche at B.S. Taqueria
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Shrimp tacos? Check. Grill corn smothered in chilli butter, cheese and coriander? Check. Pitches of Margarita? Check. Los Angeles B.S. Taqueria has all the classics, but done better than everywhere else.
Escape the Crowds at Artist Point in the Yosemite
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Often named America’s best national park, it’s home to the highest waterfall (Yosemite Falls) and world’s tallest uninterrupted granite monolith (El Capitan). There are many excellent hiking trails including the well-traversed John Muir Trail and the Mist Trail. Artist Point is a 3km round-trip, and has a viewpoint similar to the Tunnel View but with less people.
See the World of Colour at Disneyland Resort
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It’s a thrilling moment walking through the iconic gates at Main Street – pause for a second to take it all in. But not for too long – it’s going to be a long wait in the line for Space Mountain. Finish the day with a spectacular nighttime performance at World of Colour, an installation with rainbows of light, water fountains and projections of famous Disney film moments.
Try Mountain Biking at Flume Trail on Lake Tahoe
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Lake Tahoe is so enormous it has four different sections. Flume Trail is on the Eastern Shore, and has some difficult trails for keen riders. You’ll be rewarded with spectacular views. Hiking is also possible on the trail; make sure to pack a picnic lunch to eat at Marlette Lake, which can only be reached by bike or car.
Visit Palm Springs in Modern Week
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The city is famous for its proliferation of Mid-Century Modernist buildings. You can tour them year round but if you’re an architecture fan, attending the weeklong annual Modernist festival in February is a must. It has 350 events, including bike tours through 20 neighbourhoods, a party at the former home of Frank Sinatra and a vintage car show.
Appreciate the $305 Million Renovation of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
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In 2016, the gallery reopened after a three-year renovation with a new extension to house the Fisher Collection. It holds the incredible private collection donated by Doris and Donald Fisher, the founders of GAP. The gallery also frequently holds excellent photography exhibitions; it was one of the first institutions to recognise photography as an artistic medium.
Up Next: The Best Free Things to do in New York
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Even seasoned travellers would be forgiven for thinking a trip to the Big Apple requires a big budget. But start spreading the news because if you know where to look (and who to talk to) you’ll find plenty of wallet-friendly options for experiencing the best of New York. Here’s where you should start.