- Catalina Island - located just offshore from Los Angeles - on a clear day, you can easily see it from beaches in the area. The island has many hiking trails and beaches. For more information see http://www.catalinachamber.com/. Ferries leave from Long Beach and San Pedro harbors.
- Joshua Tree National Park - East of LA and Palm Springs, and close enough for a weekend trip. If you like to rock-climb, Joshua Tree Monument has wonderful and fun formations. Camping is also excellent in Joshua Tree (to reserve, call 1-800-365-CAMP). Joshua Tree is about a 3 hour drive, east on the 10 freeway and north on Hwy 62 (Twentynine Palms Highway).
- Mojave Desert - Begins north of the San Gabriel mountains and is most easily reached from Palmdale or Lancaster. The Mojave National Reserve, accessible from Fwy 15 and 40, has a few large sand dunes and caverns. Spring brings colorful displays of wildflowers. To get more information about places to go and things to do in the desert, check out DesertUSA’s website at http://www.desertusa.com. To learn about when the flowers are blooming, call the Wildflower Hotline at (818) 768-3533.
- San Diego - The southernmost part of California can be reached on Interstate 5. If you’re not in a hurry, drive on Hwy 1, which is more scenic. Here is a short list of things to see: the scenic drive, Cabrillo National Monument (http://www.nps.gov/cabr) for the scenery, the Ruben H. Fleet Space Theater planetarium (http://www.rhfleet.org), and the Gaslamp District/Old Town (shopping), the USS Midway.
- San Diego Wild Animal Park 15500 San Pasqual Valley Rd. Escondido; (760) 747-8702; http://www.sandiegozoo.org/wap A large collection of animals allowed to roam free over hundreds of acres, rather than confined in small pens. Two-park tickets are also available for the Wild Animal Park and San Diego Zoo.
- San Diego Zoo - Balboa Park, San Diego; (619) 234-3153 http://www.sandiegozoo.org/zoo San Diego’s urban zoo is far superior to Los Angeles’. Includes great pandas and polar bears.
- Santa Barbara A nice little town and has kept some of its Spanish character, symbolized by its well-known mission. It also has several museums, art galleries, and great wineries. During the first week of August, there is a big fiesta with people dancing in the streets. The Amtrak Surfliner train goes Los Angeles Union Station to Santa Barbara with good frequency, is a beautiful ride, and drops you off right in downtown Santa Barbara.
- Solvang - Located half an hour away from Santa Barbara, this Danish village is very enjoyable for an afternoon of walking, shopping or for visiting their summer festival. The drive from Santa Barbara to Solvang via Hwy 154 is quite scenic. Bring a picnic to Lake Cachuma Park.
<display_map searchmarkers="all" height=500px width=700px> Catalina Island ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Catalina Island; Joshua Tree National Park ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Joshua Tree National Park; Joshua Tree National Park; Mojave Desert ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Mojave Desert; Mojave Desert; San Diego, CA ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ San Diego; San Diego, CA; Santa Barbara, CA ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Santa Barbara; Santa Barbara, CA; Solvang, CA ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Solvang; Solvang, CA; </display_map>
- Big Sur
http://www.bigsurcalifornia.org A small town halfway to San Francisco. There are many hiking and camping opportunities and secluded beaches.
- Carmel and Monterey
http://www.carmelcalifornia.com and http://www.monterey.com Two cities nestled along the coast. Carmel is the site of a mission. In addition, you’ll find many restaurants, cafés and art galleries. Take the Seventeen-Mile Drive which will show you the Monterey Peninsula: you’ll find nice cliffs, rocks, and cypresses. The Monterey Aquarium is well worth a visit.
- Hearst Castle
http://www.hearstcastle.com; (800) 444-4445 Hearst, a former newspaper magnate, built an incredible mansion in San Simeon to store the objects that he accumulated during his lifetime. For your first visit, we recommend that you take tour No. 1. In season, Hearst Castle receives so many visitors that you have to reserve your visit way in advance.
- San Francisco
http://www.sfvisitor.org When visiting San Francisco, remember to take some warm clothes, because San Francisco is often doused in a cold fog. The cheapest motels are on Lombard Street and Van Ness Avenue. Transportation is very convenient in San Francisco: cable cars (a must), BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) and buses (MUNI and Golden Gate Transit) will get you almost everywhere, even to Berkeley. Some tourist attractions include Union Square, Chinatown (http://www.sanfranciscochinatown.com), Fisherman’s Wharf shopping area (http://www.fishermanswharf.org), Alcatraz (http://www.nps.gov/alcatraz, and the Wells Fargo fiesta with people dancing in the streets.
East (to Nevada and Arizona)
- Death Valley Northwest of Las Vegas is one of the hottest places around. The temperature can easily reach 45C (115F), so it’s best not to visit in the middle of summer. Nonetheless, the scenery is wonderful: the best times are close to dawn and sunset, because the rocks have more colors. There is lots of open space in Death Valley, so get off the beaten path and do some camping in the dunes.
- Grand Canyon
http://www.nps.gov/grca One of the seven natural wonders of the world. Very cold in winter and very warm in summer, the Canyon is just totally awesome. It’s also very touristy: motels are very expensive, so we recommend that you stay in Williams or camp in Grand Canyon Village (Mather Campground, (800) 365-CAMP), because these are the only affordable ways of staying there. The Canyon deserves a long and extensive visit.
- Hoover Dam
http://www.usbr.gov/lc/hooverdam 30 km east of Las Vegas, the dam was a technical challenge at the time it was built (in the 30’s). Technically, the dam is a masterpiece that remained unequaled for a long time because of its daring architecture.
- Las Vegas
vegas.com The paradise for gambling and hedonistic fun. “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”! During the day, go to Wet ‘n’ Wild: it’s a water park, somewhat equivalent to Raging Waters.
US and foreign students alike need a passport or you won’t be able to return. If you are not a US citizen, check into the INS regulations before going (see the International Student Information chapter); if you are a US citizen, you need either a passport or your birth certificate and photo ID. Don’t drink out of a bottle in the streets, or you’ll get to visit the Mexican jails, which is not recommended. The beaches are nice, warm and not crowded if you drive far enough from the border.
- Mt. Whitney
This is the continental United States’ tallest peak at approximately 14,494 feet. The trails make for an interesting and strenuous one-day hike or a relatively easy two-day pack trip.
- Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park
http://www.nps.gov/seki This park offers many opportunities for hiking and camping among some of the largest and oldest trees in the world. Kings Canyon is farther along SR 99 than Sequoia. This park is far less popular than Yosemite, so it is a great place to escape from the crowd.
http://www.nps.gov/yose Yosemite is a must for hikers and all mountain lovers. This park is world-famous, so try to obtain a reservation for a motel room in Merced (http://www.yosemite-gateway.org), or in Mariposa (http://mariposa.yosemite.net) or a campground inside the park. Camping Muir Tree is a cheap campground, but far from grocery shops, so it is best to buy things ahead of time. Yosemite offers some wonderful scenery.
<display_map searchmarkers="all" height=500px width=700px> Mt. Whitney ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Mt. Whitney; Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park; Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park; Yosemite ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Yosemite; Yosemite; </display_map>