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  • Pamela Froman

Best Kept Secrets


California is known for its sunny days and stretches of sand. But there is so much more out there. Did you know that there are some amazing spots that are truly hidden gems? Come explore the funky, fun, amazing and oftentimes beautiful areas that make up the state we call home.

A perfect way to explore nature is by taking a hike. But trails are more than trees and flowers, and there are some very unique ones that offer a special touch.

Are you a Doors fan? Then Malibu's Corral Canyon's Backbone Trail is perfect for you. The trail leads to Corral Canyon Cave, otherwise known as Morrison’s Cave. Supposedly it's where the bard himself used to write.

Of course, everyone is aware of Yosemite National Park, but did you know that it contains some interesting secret hikes? The Mist Trail is one of those. It's an easy paced trek and there are waterfalls galore. The falls will splash you as you pass directly underneath them – so prepare to get wet!

Inside the Lassen National Park, the geography is smoking hot. No really, we mean hot – the Bumpass Hell trail has active volcanoes as its scenery! There are bubbling mud pits, hydrothermal pools and even steam geysers.

Beaches make up much of California life. There are a couple however that truly stand out from the crowd.

Nestled along the gorgeous Mendocino Coast is the infamous Glass Beach – originally a glass dump. Over the years, the power of the ocean refined the glass to morph into beautiful sea glass that is sparkled all over the shoreline.

Close to home is Venice Beach. The Beach's Ocean Front Boardwalk is the place to be. Walk, eat, shop, see and be seen. There are people and various entertainment everywhere. Singers with regale you with tunes, artists hawk their wares, you can even get your fortune told in one of the many psychic shops. Feeling rebellious and want a tattoo? Venice is the perfect spot to grab some ink. Maybe you just want to take in the scenery? You can rent a bike and cruise on the bike paths that mirror the boardwalk.

Coronado Silver Strand-Beach in San Diego lives up to it's name with silver sand. Why is it silver? Oyster shells line the beach and dunes, scattering sparks everywhere. The beach is perfect for overnight camping, but the best part is the amazing shells that you can collect.

Getting lost in the forest has never been so spectacular. Trees and greenery abound in California, and they are the perfect place to wander and marvel in the beauty of nature.

Massive, spectacular and ancient coastal redwood trees are a must-see. North of San Francisco is a glorious redwood forest known as Muir Woods. It encompasses a total of 554 acres, 240 of which are old growth redwood forests. Go for a hike and explore the six miles of trails throughout the park area.

Sequoia National Park’s Giant Forest offers up the largest sequoia trees out there. They are truly striking and sure to amaze. The park also features stunning mountains, deep canyons, and dense, diverse wildlife. Take a gander into the Giant Forest, which is filled with exceptionally large trees. While there, be sure to visit the spectacular General Sherman Tree, the largest living sequoia.

Have you ever explored a cave? The beauty above ground can pale to the beauty underground as you check out the unique caves that dot the California landscape. There's a world that lies below your feet.

Lava Beds National Monument is located in a remote spot near Tulelake, California. There are over 700 lava tube caves here; 20 of which can be explored on your own. The caves were created by lava flows over a period of fifty thousand years from 10,000 to 60,000 years ago.

When the seas are calm, take a boat trip out to Santa Cruz Island and stop at the Painted Cave. This colorful spot is a unique rock formation and a great Instagram opportunity. Kayaking out to the cave gets you an even better look – and you also gain the ability to explore the many other caves located along the shoreline.

But besides the landscape, there's more! Creatures abound!

One of the most interesting secrets in Carpinteria is the Seal Preserve. The Harbor Seal Preserve is home to almost 100 adult seals. You can visit the Preserve via the bluffs above. The seals are riveting to watch.

For more fishy wildlife check out Aquarium Of The Pacific in Long Beach. Get up close and personal with sharks, seals, sea otters, and penguins, among others. If you are open water certified, you can even dive into an exhibit.

In the Angeles National Forest, there is a 160-acre animal sanctuary with some stunning creatures – including lions, tigers and bears (oh my). Hyenas, foxes, leopards and reptiles also call the forest home.

Maybe you truly want to get away from it all. Head out to the sand. Desert towns offer cutting-edge art and great outdoor adventures.

Palm Springs is the quintessential desert town: Palm trees dot the landscape, midcentury modernist architecture abounds, and the San Jacinto Mountains anchor the viewpoints. Stars like Bob Hope and Frank Sinatra once called this desert gem home. You'll love it too, especially when you see it on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.

The main attraction of the desert community of Joshua Tree is, of course, the park that offers the same moniker. But downtown Joshua Tree offers plenty more – tons of art galleries, restaurants, and vintage motels.

Salvation Mountain is an art piece located in the middle of the desert, about 90 minutes from Palm Springs. This colorful creation combines religious scripture along with an onrush of trees, flowers, suns and birds. It’s also truly organic – made of local clay and paint.

Elmer Long’s Bottle Ranch showcases over 200 trees that are made from glass bottles of all shapes, sizes and colors. It's a lovely and obscure desert art space located between Victorville and Barstow on Route 66.

Native Americans have a proud heritage. There are around 326 Indian reservations in the United States. Locally, you can visit the Chumash Indian Museum. It is the site of a former Chumash village and is located in Oakbrook Regional Park in Thousand Oaks. The site is also home to a replica of a Chumash village and ancient pictographs.

If you want to see more tribal life, you will have to venture out of state. The Navajo Nation is the largest Indian reservation, through Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. They often let visitors observe powwows, tribal dances and select ceremonies – but be respectful!

Purchasing the Cherokee Compass for just $15, gains you admission to sites like the Cherokee Heritage Center, Cherokee National Prison Museum, Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum and John Ross Museum. Don't forget the guided tours of a completely reconstructed Cherokee village.

Every Labor Day weekend, the Annual Iroquois Indian Festival takes place. Sky Dancers perform social dances. There are also arts and crafts including beadwork, cornhusk doll making and Iroquois storytelling. www.iroquoismuseum.org/festivals You've explored hidden gems, and you're hungry. But who wants to sit inside? Dining alfresco is one of the many perks we are treated to in Southern California.

At Nobu in Malibu you can dine as you gaze upon the Pacific. Oh, and don't forget the delicious Japanese food! The restaurant also contains a Japanese garden.

Ray's & Stark Bar is an unique outdoor restaurant and bar located at LACMA. The artsy atmosphere of the museum creates a creative space, and at night from your spot in the open-air you can check out Chris Burden's installation.

With a roof for shade, two outdoor fireplaces, and chock full of olive trees, the patio at Spago in Beverly Hills is the place to be when dining outdoors in Los Angeles. You may even spot a celebrity or two!

Full? It's time to get out in the hustle and bustle. Break out your credit card at some of Los Angeles' many outdoor shopping experiences. These meccas create a great sense of fun and whimsy. You are not only perusing the stores, you're enjoying the atmosphere too!

The Grove in Los Angeles features a large center park with an animated fountain. Its music show plays every hour with the water's choreography at the forefront. Trolley cars link The Grove to the adjacent Farmers Market. The Farmers Market first opened in July 1934, and is a historic Los Angeles landmark. It has more than 100 restaurants, grocers, and tourist shops.

Third Street in Santa Monica is a must see. Stroll along this outdoor mall. Street performers and entertainers are a frequent sight. Singer-songwriters, classical guitar players, magicians, clowns, hip-hop dancers, lounge singers, session drummers, and other artists all line up along Third Street.

What is a pop-up? It's a temporary space where the you can hang out for various reasons.

San Fernando Valley Pop-Up Drive-In Nights are back. An inflatable screen is erected at the Lake Balboa Complex at various nights this summer. Come early for a prime parking spot, and get out and mingle with your neighbors. There also will be food trucks to get grub. www.myvalleypass.com

The City of Thousand Oaks is bringing a Pop-Up Arts & Music Festival over three weekends in June. The festival will feature performances and activities and includes local and regional artistic talent, and nationally recognized performing artists. https://civicartsplaza.com/show_detail.php?id=539

You can't miss these amazing to find – and amazing to visit – spots. Whether in a forest or in a shopping mall, always be ready to explore!

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