Seattle is a vibrant modern city which enjoys a magnificent natural setting on beautiful Puget Sound. The city’s exciting modern and historic buildings are nestled between snow-capped Mount Rainier and the shorelines of Elliott Bay and Lake Washington and reflect its connections to the cutting edge aviation and computer industries. Seattle is famous as the headquarters of Microsoft and Boeing and is the home of Starbucks – founded here in the 1970s. There’s a great public transport system making it easy for you to get around the many attractions: Pike Place Market, Pioneer Square, the Space Needle, the monorail, the bars and cafés of Capitol Hill, the Seattle Art Museum and the Museum of Flight are all worth visiting.
Sonoma is a small Spanish colonial town at the end of the crescent shaped Sonoma Valley. This pretty oak-studded region is renowned for its vineyards and there are many small, family-run wineries that offer tastings just a short walk from the town centre. The restored Mission San Francisco Solano de Sonoma was the northernmost, and last, of the California missions built by the Mexicans and is open to visitors daily. Another feature of the town is the spacious plaza where the Bear Flag Revolt took place in 1846, propelling the state into independence from Mexico and then statehood with the USA.
Yosemite National Park was one of the first wilderness parks in the USA and was designated a World Heritage Site in 1984. It is best known for its waterfalls and within its 1,170 square miles, deep valleys, spectacular granite cliffs, thousands of lakes, clear mountain streams and giant sequoia groves exist. Situated in California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range, Yosemite’s peaks soar to over 13,000 feet above sea level. Visitors flock to Yosemite Falls and Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, whilst the beautiful Yosemite Valley is popular with walkers and climbers. Free shuttle transport links various parts of the park.
Carmel-by-the-Sea is one of the California’s most beautiful seaside hideaways. A world-class destination for golfers, hikers, spa-enthusiasts and gourmets alike, this delightful beachside community boasts white sand beaches, turquoise waters, native Cypress trees and a picture postcard village. The town is easily explored on foot and is home to some of the region’s best shopping, fine dining, art galleries, beaches and parks. Also worth visiting is nearby Monterey, a short drive away on world-famous 17 Mile Drive, a scenic route that hugs the coast and passes lush golf courses and lavish mansions en route. Monterey, made famous by John Steinbeck in his epic book Cannery Row, is located on the shores of one of America’s most famous natural ocean sanctuaries and is home to the well-known Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Santa Barbara has a long and interesting history. Father Junipero Serra, one of the original Jesuit priests who established El Camino Real with a series of missions along the California Coast, founded Santa Barbara in 1782. The town remained in Spanish hands until Mexico ceded California in 1848 but it was only after the 1925 earthquake that Santa Barbara developed from a quiet agricultural community to a thriving modern city. The town’s principal attraction is the beautiful Santa Barbara Mission which has been a working church since 1794. Also worth visiting is El Presidio de Santa Barbara Historic Park, home of one of the original Spanish fortresses built along the coast. The city’s Botanic Garden makes a wonderful place to stroll between the lush flowers, while the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum, located right on the waterfront, allows you to tour the tall ships anchored in the harbour. The heart of the town also features a great variety of shops, many of which are tucked away amongst outdoor paseos and landscaped plazas.
Palm Springs is a true oasis in the California desert, with its many golf courses and condominiums lying amidst lush farmland. In the heart of the city lies the shop-lined Palm Canyon Drive, the Palm Springs Desert Museum, which focuses on Native American art, and the Tramway Gas Station, home to the city’s visitor centre. The city’s architecture and upmarket resort atmosphere makes a great contrast with the surrounding desert scenery. For an overview of the area the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway winds 8,000 feet up the mountains, passing five climatic zones on the way, and offers stunning views from the top. Many miles of walking trails also surround the town. The one-mile nature walk through picturesque Long Valley makes an easy start, or try the lovely walks through Indian Canyon, Palm Canyon and Andreas Canyon. Some areas of the desert are set aside for 4×4 adventures, another great way to explore.