Cool Country on the California Coast From San Diego to Pismo Beach
Ed Boitano | Mar 31, 2014, 2:34 p.m.
Old Town is the first permanent European settlement in California. In 1769, Father Junipero Serra established a chain of 21 missions; each situated a day’s horse ride away. Today the San Diego Mission overlooks a collection of historic adobe buildings, shops and restaurants. The Old Town Trolley tour is the best way to get an overview of what is considered the birthplace of California.
Balboa Park is the nation’s largest urban cultural park. Home to 14 museums, performing arts venues and spectacular gardens, it is a must-see attraction. Admittance is free to the grounds, but there is a charge for a number of the attractions. The Stay-for-the-Day pass offers admission to your choice of any four of the 14 participating attractions.
The 100-acre San Diego Zoo is a sanctuary for more than 1,000 animals; a place to learn of conservation efforts to protect wildlife from extinction. The setting is stunning, with exotic plant life utilized throughout the park. Start your tour with a tram ride, which offers a comprehensive overview of the zoo.
Little Italy, now the largest in the States, dates back to the days of San Diego’s fishing industry when generations of Italian fisherman called the area home. Today, Little Italy is a vibrant neighborhood of restaurants, pubs, galleries and shops. It also features a world-class Saturday farmers market.
A trip to the USS Midway Museum was how I wanted to end my San Diego stay. The collection of 60 exhibits and 25 restored aircraft aboard the aircraft carrier was a heartfelt tribute to the men and women who have served our country. The tour colored my thoughts as I strolled back to my car in preparation to for next stop of my journey. I had done San Diego, but knew there was still more to see. I will be back.
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On to Laguna Beach—The Riviera of California
Laguna’s history dates back to the arrival of Native Americans—believed to originate from the Shoshone family. Attracted by the plentiful supply of fish and shell fish, they also hunted deer in the surrounding canyons. They referred to the area as Lagona (lakes), due to the fresh water lakes in the canyon. In 1933 a 17,000-year-old skull was found in Laguna, indicating their early presence in the area. In the 1800s, the Spanish titled the area “Canada de las Lagunas” (canyon of the lakes).
The first settlers arrived in 1870, followed by tourists who came for the cool ocean breezes as a reprieve from California’s brutal inland weather. Accommodations were in tents, but this all changed with the building of the Hotel Laguna in 1889. Now christened Laguna, the area was on its way to becoming a popular tourist resort. Hollywood was not immune to Laguna’s charm, with the likes of Bette Davis, Mary Pickford, Judy Garland, Rudolph Valentino, Charlie Chaplin and Mickey Rooney maintaining homes in town. Laguna was transformed into an arts community when painter Norman St. Clair first set his eyes on this stunning landscape. He was so taken by the beauty of the area that he spread the word to his artist colleagues.