Travel Guide to California

2015 Travel Guide to California

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138 2 0 1 5 T R A V E L G U I D E T O C A L I F O R N I A B Y J I L L K . R O B I N S O N L ike a shell necklace, a string of small beach towns lines the coast south of Big Sur to Santa Barbara. While Southern California gets prime beach town attention, it's the Central Coast region that has it all without trying to pack too many bodies into each sandy square foot. If you're looking for a place to escape the hustle and bustle, chill out like a local, get some fun and sun, and sample some of the best cuisine and wine in the state, pack your bags and head to the Central Coast. The biggest population center is the Santa Barbara area, with its white Spanish-style buildings and red-tiled roofs. In Santa Barbara, there are vast beaches, plenty of fine arts venues, bright boutiques, outdoor adven- tures, culinary tastes and an inland region (the Santa Ynez Valley, featured in the movie Sideways) known for wine and Santa Maria barbecue. Visitors can tour hilltop Hearst Castle, see hulking elephant seals at Piedras Blancas, relax in the sleepy beach towns of Cayucos and Morro Bay, or find some action in college-town San Luis Obispo. Fresh seafood often tastes best with a view of the ocean, and the old-fashioned piers of Avila Beach and Pismo Beach are ideal spots to take that meal break. Ven- tura's Mission San Buenaventura is the last of the California missions founded by Junipero Serra. The oceanside town is also a jumping-off point for adventures in Channel Islands National Park, called "California's Gala- pagos," with tide pools, kelp forests and unique flora and fauna species. DIMA ROGOZHIN/SHUTTERSTOCK . OPPOSITE: SOLVANG CVB; SHIPPEE/SHUTTERSTOCK CENTRAL COAST TOP CITIES Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Paso Robles, Morro Bay, Cambria, Ventura, Lompoc, Solvang INTERNATIONAL GATEWAY Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), 98 miles (158 km) from Santa Barbara; 192 miles (309 km) from San Luis Obispo TOURISM WEBSITES POPULATION 1,542,000 CENTRAL COAST Endless beaches for wandering

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