San Francisco’s Crissy Field
Lay out your blanket: With iconic views of the San Francisco Bay, Crissy Field’s shoreline provides beaches and picnic tables perfect for enjoying a meal together. Drop in the Warming Hut Café–an old army shed turned restaurant and bookstore–for delicious food and a refuge from the Golden Gate winds.
Family time: Although the wind can be bothersome at times, it can be a great opportunity at Crissy Field for kids to try their hands at kite flying. You can also legally fish or crab without a license at Torpedo Wharf at the west end. Don’t miss the nearby Exploratorium science and art museum, with hudreds of explore-yourself-exhibits.
Make it a weekend: Stay in San Francisco’s newest boutique hotel, Hotel des Arts, just 10 minutes away from Crissy Field. It’s an interactive experience, as the hotel displays the contemporary work of local artists.
Redding’s Turtle Bay Exploration Park
Lay out your blanket: Not only will this museum channel your brain power, but it has excellent fuel for your hunger too. Load your basket at the Café at Turtle Bay, where you can feast on gourmet sandwiches and creative salads. There’s also a full-service espresso bar for an afternoon pick-me-up.
Family time: The museum at the heart of Turtle Bay features interesting, interactive exhibits and special exhibition galleries with play areas for the kids. Visit the Botanical Gardens and explore a climate display garden, medicinal garden, and a children’s garden. And be sure to check out the Sundial bridge, that crosses the Sacramento River, and marvel at both its techinical and functional beauty.
Make it a weekend: Stay at the quaint Bridgehouse Bed & Breakfast for a unique experience. Only 5 minutes away from the park, you can explore all day, then come home to spacious rooms with private baths.
Rising from a rocky shoreline into hills covered by Monterey pines, Cambria has a spirit shaped equally by ocean and forest.
Midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, this Central Coast town boasts several miles of coastline and, especially in spring, is bordered by rolling hills green enough to evoke the Welsh origins of its name.
The village itself sits deep in a knoll between wooded slopes. Quaint but not cloyingly so, it has 19th-century cottages set in lush gardens while a lawn-bowling green commands a prominent place on a main street named Main Street.
Back when this area was busy with whaling, mining, and logging, Cambria was known as Slabtown. Rugged as the town was, the name referred not to tombstones but to the slabs of rough wood used in building construction.
These days Cambria’s trees and mountains are cherished rather than bought and sold, and the town makes an ideal base for anyone looking for a weekend filled with long beach walks or hikes into the hills. Browsing, not brawling, is the main village pursuit, and shops and galleries feature many of the local artists and craftspeople who have settled here. It’s no wonder they chose Cambria ― a place where beauty and inspiration are never very far away.
Day one: Stroll the beach, art shop, eat some great olallieberry pie
The ideal start to a Cambria day is a walk at Moonstone Beach. You can take the boardwalk that follows the bluffs or walk along the beach, named for the white agates sometimes found here.
Head into the village for breakfast, where, on Saturdays, Lily’s Coffeehouse serves crêpes on its patio. Then browse for art. The Vault Gallery is located in a 1920s bank building. Next door, Sunfire Gallery spotlights glass art by owner Larry E. Newsum III, while Seekers Glass Gallery’s collection includes pieces by artists from around the country.
For lunch, Robin’s Restaurant has an eclectic menu that features daily salad specials and a flavorful salmon bisque. Its vine-covered patio is one of Cambria’s most appealing dining spots. Save room for dessert and drive up Santa Rosa Creek Road to Linn’s Farmstore for its country setting and famous olallieberry pie. From here, double back to State 1, then head south a short distance to Harmony. While the old dairy town has seen busier times, you can watch glassblowing demonstrations, visit a pottery studio, and end your afternoon with wine tasting at Harmony Cellars. Then join the locals for oysters, clams, and other seafood at the Sea Chest on Moonstone Beach.
Bass Lake has star quality. A classically pretty mountain lake, ringed by tall sugar and ponderosa pines, it served as Technicolor backdrop to the beautiful-if-evil Gene Tierny in the ’40s classic, Leave Her to Heaven. In the ’80s, less glamorously, it costarred with John Candy in The Great Outdoors.
Today, the biggest lakeside celebrities may be the bald eagles that nest each spring and summer by the shore. But Bass Lake still appeals. Set in the Sierra Nevada foothills, it’s an easy detour on the way to Yosemite National Park. On a map it looks like a fat pinkie finger – with a slight crook in the middle. It’s 4 miles long, 1/2 mile wide, and fairly shallow, so the water really warms up in summer. That makes it a hot spot for those on water skis and water scooters.
Three good resorts – Ducey’s on the Lake, the adjoining Pines Resort and Conference Center, and Bass Lake Lodge – give you a range of places to stay. The lake has several marinas where you can rent ski boats, water scooters, patio boats, and the like. Send up some rooster tails as you zip across the lake on water skis. Find a quiet cove to wet a fishing line, or just spread a shoreside picnic and take a dip. The water’s fine. – Lora J. Finnegan
Bass Lake is 47 miles northeast of Fresno via State 41 (Yosemite Hwy.). From Oakhurst, take State 41 north to the Bass Lake turnoff (County Rd. 222) and drive about 4 miles to the lake.
The lake is at its best between Memorial Day and Labor Day – after that, water levels drop due to electricity generation and irrigation use. It’s managed by California Land Management; pick up a map or parking pass ($3) at their Bass Lake office (559/642-3212) on County Rd. 222 on the south shore. Parking passes are required for developed picnic areas.