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The first thing you need to know about Carmel: Clint Eastwood used to be the mayor, so don’t come here if you’re a hooligan. But if you’re after a romantic getaway to a seaside, art-filled village, Carmel might be perfect for you. You can even bring your dog—Carmel’s hotels, restaurants and galleries are remarkably Fido-friendly.
Jagged cliffs pummeled by surf line the Pacific Coast Highway along Big Sur, creating some of California's most memorable ocean vistas between Carmel and the northern tip of San Luis Obispo County. Jack Kerouac and Henry Miller found inspiration in its fog-banked canyons and meadows. Gray whales migrate past twice a year, and elephant seals bask on the sandy shores. Luxury hotels, restaurants and art galleries cluster in a six-mile strip, giving way to redwood-filled state parks on either side.
The quintessential California beach town of Santa Cruz! It was here that surfing was first brought to the mainland by Hawaiian royalty. Home to the legendary Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, a pedestrian-friendly, tree-lined downtown area, and the historic Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf, which stretches out a half-mile into the waters of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Other highlights include UC Santa Cruz, the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum, and nearby redwood forests.
Welcome to bustling San Jose, where Silicon Valley meets Spanish history and modern edifices sit alongside meticulously restored 19th-century buildings. Such is the contrast of this city rich in tradition and, thanks to the tech industry, just plain rich. Five star-hotels and fine restaurants line the streets of the restored downtown area, and the cultural scene is thriving with museums, theater and art to rival any world-class hub. Don't miss the Tech Museum of Innovation, an exploration of Silicon Valley and its impact on the area. History buffs will relish the old mansions and can delve into the city's past at the History Museum of San Jose. Save time for a round of golf or the locals' other favorite pastime, sipping coffee and people-watching at a crowded cafe.
A mere 45-minute drive from San Francisco lies Half Moon Bay, an idyllic enclave and truly the perfect place to spend some time away from the big city. Horseback ride along a scenic beach, play golf on a spectacular course overlooking the ocean or browse through the numerous shops and art galleries in the historic section. If you decide to stay, as many do, treat yourself to a delicious dinner at any of the town's fine restaurants. Then check into an enchanting bed and breakfast, a charming inn or boutique hotel. Your Half Moon Bay experience will not be soon forgotten.
Hollywood beckons to tourists who long for a brush with Tinseltown glamor. Tour movie studios, slip your hands into the famous prints at the TCL Chinese Theatre, or indulge in a celeb sighting at one of LA’s white-hot nightspots. Spot your favorite star while shopping at The Grove, or forget all about the famous eye candy as you take in the iconic artwork at The Getty Center. For a different type of star-gazing, peek through the telescopes at the Griffith Observatory.
Whether you’re a high roller or a low-key lounger, Las Vegas has something to suit your vacation taste. Sample fare from top chefs and cornucopian buffets, try your luck at one of the world’s premier casinos, or take in a spectacular show. Just wandering the Strip is enough to get your heart pumping. Once you’ve had enough of the razzle-dazzle, wave hello to the toothy sea life at the Mandalay Bay Shark Reef, hike Red Rock Canyon, or visit the Neon Museum, where old signs take on new life.
San Diego embodies laid-back California culture, complete with a Boardwalk, surfing communities, and outstanding Mexican food. Breathe in the fresh ocean air at Sunset Cliffs Natural Park, then gobble down a fresh fish taco at a La Jolla seafood joint. The naval aircrafts at the USS Midway Museum will have you standing at attention. A free Sunday concert at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion is the perfect way to unwind after a Saturday night bar-hop in the thumping Gaslamp Quarter.
You may have all heard that everything is bigger in Texas. Well, Dallas does its best to fulfill that promise. You'll find several museums with vast art collections and fascinating specialty museums like The Sixth Floor Museum/Texas School Book Depository, which, though small in size, offers an immense amount of information about the assassination of John F. Kennedy. And of course, visit a local steakhouse for a terrific (and enormous) meal.