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Trip of the Week

Summer Vacations : Diverse California Vacations Just a Drive Away

April 09, 1989|MICHELE GRIMM and TOM GRIMM | The Grimms are free-lance writers/photographers living in Laguna Beach.

California's incredible diversity means that you don't have to travel very far for an enjoyable summer vacation.

Here are some of our favorite Golden State getaways, ranging from the seashore to the mountains to the desert.

Some of these destinations are well-known, others a bit offbeat. Included are suggestions for dining and lodging, along with telephone numbers for more information and the one-way mileage from Los Angeles.

Napa Valley. Although sampling the grape is the major pastime of vacationers in America's most renowned wine region, there's much more to enjoy than the 150 wineries in the beautiful Napa Valley.

You can watch California's own Old Faithful Geyser, and have a mud bath at Calistoga, founded in 1859 as a hot springs resort. Visit the Sharpsteen Museum to recall the town's early days, then get an aerial view of the valley during a scenic glider flight, tandem sky dive or hot-air balloon ride.

At St. Helena, literature lovers see the works and mementos of Robert Louis Stevenson in the Silverado Museum, which is devoted to the Scottish-born writer's life.

Near that charming 19th-Century town is a first-class resort, Meadowood, where guests play tennis, golf and croquet. Other top retreats are Auberge du Soleil near Rutherford (with a hillside restaurant that attracts gourmet diners from miles around) and the sprawling Silverado Country Club close to Napa.

Chambers of commerce: Napa, (707) 226-7455; St. Helena, (707) 963-4456; Calistoga, (707) 942-6333, and the Napa Valley Tourist Bureau in Yountville, (707) 944-1557; 505 miles.

Julian. This century-old mining community in the back country of San Diego County dishes up plenty of nostalgia, including hot homemade apple pie in the bakeries and restaurants. (Try Mom's Pie Shop or the Julian Pie Co.)

You can ride down the main street in a horse-drawn carriage or go for a rural tour in a wagon pulled by draft horses. Follow a prospector into the Eagle Mine to hear his tales about Julian's gold-rush days, then wander through the town museum that's crammed with memorabilia.

Spend the night in the Julian Hotel, which opened its doors in 1897 and is now a 16-room bed-and-breakfast inn. Also quaint are four antique-decorated cabins called Julian Farms Lodging.

Campers can bed down in nearby Cuyamaca Rancho State Park or William Heise County Park. Before you leave town, drop by the Julian Drug Store for a sarsaparilla or a brown cow at its old marble-topped soda fountain.

Julian Chamber of Commerce: (619) 765-1857; 180 miles.

Cambria/Morro Bay. The cool central coast offers relief for families from the San Joaquin Valley, but Southlanders also are discovering its quiet charms. Besides sunbathing, beachcombing, fishing and swimming at the ocean's edge, visitors descend on Hearst Castle for a guided tour of the hilltop estate that is California's most popular historic monument.

Stay at the Inn at Morro Bay in Morro Bay State Park where you can hike along nature trails, golf on an 18-hole course and canoe or kayak around the protected bay within sight of landmark Morro Rock. Dine on seafood at restaurants that overlook fishing vessels in the scenic harbor.

Shop for antiques in Cayucos, an unassuming coastal village just north of Morro Bay, and look for more collectibles in Cambria, an attractive tourist town just off Pacific Coast Highway.

After shopping (don't miss The Seekers' two stores with artistic creations of glass, ceramics, porcelain and wood), enjoy a fine meal at Ian's, Grey Fox Inn, Brambles, Rigdon Hall or The Hamlet at Moonstone Gardens.

Cambria boasts friendly B&Bs, plus a dozen delightful lodgings within the sound of the ocean surf along Moonstone Beach Drive.

Cambria Chamber of Commerce, (805) 927-3624, and Morro Bay Chamber of Commerce, 772-4467; 230 miles.

Sacramento/Gold Country. Follow California 49 to the small towns and mining camps of California's Mother Lode. The winding route takes you 250 miles through the scenic western slopes of the Sierra Nevada.

Today the gold rush is to quaint shops, restaurants and inns along the way. Don't miss Columbia and Marshall Gold Discovery at Coloma, both state historic parks.

To the west is Sacramento, our state capital that has brought back its early days with the restoration of Old Sacramento along the river front.

A highlight for train buffs is the California State Railroad Museum. Elsewhere in town you can tour the restored State Capitol, the former governor's mansion and Sutter's Fort State Historic Park.

Sacramento Convention and Visitors Bureau, (916) 442-5542; 386 miles.

Palm Springs/Coachella Valley. The Golden State's premier desert destination in winter is becoming a hot spot for vacationers in summer, too. One reason is that most lodgings are staying open all year, including the historic 1920s La Quinta Hotel, Golf and Tennis Resort that just completed a $45-million expansion.

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