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  • Pamela Froman

Unique Southern California Road Trips

If you want to explore California there are plenty of ways to make your way through our beautiful scenery and fun-filled attractions. Head out onto the road for a trip to get out there, enjoy the scenery, and forge exploration! The trip can be just as fun as the destination, so turn up the radio and get ready to explore.

Palm Springs is the perfect escape over a weekend. As you drive toward this desert resort be on the lookout for the 50-foot Cabazon Dinosaurs which are a popular attraction. When you arrive in Palm Springs, head onto Tramway Road to the classic gondola ride. Board a rotating car and you'll find yourself facing the entirety of the Coachella Valley below. Linger with a stop at the mountaintop restaurant, café or lounge, or hike deeper into the San Jacinto Mountains. Check our aeronautical history at the Palm Springs Air Museum which showcases World War II, Korea, and Vietnam-era combat aircraft. Walk along Palm Canyon Drive and explore galleries and antique stores. Palm Springs and midcentury modernism go hand in hand.

Joshua Tree is one of the most stunning places in California. This national park offers amazing and beautiful landscapes due to the Joshua Trees and huge boulders that dot the landscapes. Meander through the park on a leisurely drive. Stargazing is perfect here if you plan an overnight camping trip. The town of Joshua Tree itself also offers fun stops like the World Famous Crochet Museum, filled with quirky public art.

Have you ever visited the Salton Sea? This iconic spot is the perfect area to explore abandoned structures while fish bones litter the ground. Hungry? Check out the Ski Inn – it's one of the only remaining establishments around. Leonard Knight's humungous folk art sculpture, Salvation Mountain, is a rainbow-hued hill decorated with the words "God is Love." Or check out Slab City, a desert community that is home to East Jesus, an inhabitable experimental art installation with found-object sculptures.

The huge redwoods of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are perfect to drive through and explore nature's bounty. View these gentle giants with amazing attractions like the General Sherman Tree, which is the largest living thing in the world; Tunnel Log, a fallen, hollowed-out Sequoia that you can actually drive your car through; and Moro Rock, a dome-shaped peak that is accessible via a couple of hundred steps. As well, the roads and are perfect for and hiker's wish list.

The drive to Vegas is actually super entertaining. As you make your way east, check out Calico Ghost Town for a smattering of Wild West history. Or check out the ruins of the Zzyzx Mineral Springs and Health Spa. The Spa was run by criminal evangelist Curtis Howe Springer in 1944, touting that they provided healing natural hot springs. However, in reality, all the pools were boiler-heated. Things get even weirder in Baker with Alien Jerky, a unique, alien-themed shop that sells flavored jerky, olives, nuts, and candy. If you're looking to fuel up your stomach with something more substantial, visit the Mad Greek, a delicious Greek fast-food restaurant. And if you want to check out the open road while in Vegas, take a drive through Red Rock Canyon.

Ortega Highway stretches just over 21 miles from beautiful San Juan Capistrano in the west to Lake Elsinore Valley in the east. There are numerous turnouts that can be used for taking breaks and pictures. Famous for the Annual Return of the Swallows, Mission San Juan Capistrano is known as the "Jewel of the California Missions" and welcomes over 300,000 visitors every year. There are one-of-a-kind artifacts, treasures, and paintings. Lake Elsinore's historic downtown is rich and colorful and dates back to 1888. Be sure to take a walk down Main Street which is lined with museums, novelty stores, antiques, and fine dining. Some spots you shouldn't miss are the Chimes Crescent Bath House, the Grand Army of the Republic Armory Hall, the Masonic Lounge, and City Hall.

Highway 126 Heritage Valley passes through the towns of Piru, Fillmore, Santa Paula and the national landmark of Spanish Rancho Camulos. View the beautiful citrus and avocado orchards, roadside stands, as well as historic landmarks, antique airplanes, and railroad history.

Known as "the Alps of Southern California," Lake Arrowhead offers outdoor adventures and a place to relax. Take a tour on the Lake Arrowhead Queen Paddleboat which lasts about an hour and takes you around the perimeter of the lake. You can visit Lake Arrowhead Village, nestled in the beauty of the woods, and having the charm of Swiss chalets, with modern amenities and quaint specialty shops. Lake Arrowhead is known as a water ski lake, and preference is given to water skiers and boogie boarders.

Oak Glen is thought of as the heart of apple country. Many local orchards offer the chance to handpick a basket to take home. This diverse and fun family recreation destination offers lots of shops, crafts, and the world-famous Apple Annie's Restaurant – the bakery with the 5 lb. mile-high apple pies. There are also jumpers for the kids, a museum, and even trout ponds!

The cozy town of Ojai is a beautiful place for those looking to get away or explore, with a mix of hipsters, old-school hippies, and artists. If you like bike rides and rustic biker bars along with pool parties and fine dining, this is where you want to be. And oh, the food! Everything grows in Ojai, from olives and grapes to citrus. That means meals in Ojai are super fresh and seasonal. The wine is also locally made with tons of tasting rooms dotting the downtown area.

Who wouldn't want to visit Santa Barbara? There are miles of bike paths where you can rent a beach cruiser and ride. State Street is perfect for a stroll, and there's a host of excellent restaurants and hotels. For history, visit the Old Mission Santa Barbara with its lush courtyard, tiled roof and shaded arches. If you're looking for fresh seafood, head to Stearns Wharf where you can buy straight from the boats. The pier also offers wine tasting, a touch aquarium for kids and lots of places to shop.

What to do? Santa Ynez Valley the anchor of wine country, with more than 50 varietals in the area's diverse micro-climates. The Oscar-winning 2004 movie Sideways was shot on location throughout the area. There are over 120+ wineries located here and most are small boutique operations that are family-owned and operated. Enjoy world-class wines in an unpretentious, friendly atmosphere.

Calico Ghost Town overlooks the Mojave Desert and is a fun place to visit. At its height, Calico boasted a population of 1,200 people, and over 500 silver mines. There are unique Ghost Tour experiences you can choose from that are offered every Saturday night on a rotating basis. Walk up Main Street where you will learn about the town from the 1880s to today. Experience the Maggie Mine as no one has since the Mulcahy Bros mined it in 1881. Or take the School House tour which tells stories about the children who lived in the area.

If you are looking for a unique getaway, the historic Danish village of Solvang offers the best of the Santa Ynez Valley and Santa Barbara wine country in a relaxed and peaceful setting. Indulge in authentic Danish pastries at the world-famous bakeries. Stroll through the village and admire the old-world European architecture, plus find the perfect souvenir at a variety of charming boutiques and shops. A ride on the Solvang trolley is a must for families. This historic, wooden, horse-drawn streetcar, is just one example of Solvang's rich cultural heritage and offerings. Food and wine lovers will find more than 120 wineries and beautiful vineyards to explore near Solvang, and friendly shopkeepers dressed in authentic Danish costumes.

Get out, explore and have a great trip!

Easter and Passover Treats and Traditions

Family, friends, food and of course chocolate, these are just some of the things we associate with Easter. And Passover is more than just matzah! There are sweet goodies and customs that are kosher-friendly too!

This year, Easter falls on Sunday, April 12, 2020. Easter is often catered toward young children. There are chocolate rabbits, decorated Easter baskets, and colorfully dyed eggs. And, of course, there's the Easter Bunny. But how did all these Easter traditions become part of the celebration?

Some say that the word Easter comes from Eostre, a pagan goddess of spring and fertility. According to legend, Eostre found a bird dying from the cold and turned it into a rabbit so its fur would keep it warm – but that rabbit still laid eggs like a bird. Hence, the Easter Bunny. As well, Easter egg hunts, whether at home, with friends and neighbors, at local parks, or churches, are one of the most fun Easter traditions for kids to participate in.

Passover's popularity is partly because it's the holiday in which we retell the foundational story of Jewish history, the Exodus from Egypt. Passover is also a big deal because many Jewish families come together to share the special celebratory meal – the seder.

One of the most beloved Seder traditions is the hiding of the afikomen. The word afikoman is from the Greek epikomen meaning "that which comes after." The afikomen is the middle of the three matzahs which are stacked under the Seder plate and split it into two parts.

Hiding the afikomen is a great tradition for kids. The way it goes is that the adults hide it and the children search for it. Once found, a prize, typically a small amount of money, is given to whichever child locates the matzah. After all, the seder can't continue until the afikomen has been eaten.

For many families, the ritual Passover meal ends with candy. Ring gels, fruit slices, macaroons, almond kisses, chocolate-covered marshmallows, and chocolate-covered matzah.

And of course, it wouldn't be Easter without chocolate eggs and marshmallow bunnies.

Happy Easter and Passover!

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