Last week we looked at a host of SoCal destinations – some familiar, some less so – whose delegates attended the recent visit California sales mission in Niagara on the Lake, having put the insiders on the spot to tell us one thing they wished a Canadian knew about their region. Here’s Part 2, covering the middle and northern parts of the Golden State (starting north of Los Angeles).


Known as the “American Riviera,” walkable Santa Barbara is known for its Latin flavour, including red-roofed Spanish revival architecture, eclectic food and wine scene (including 15 Michelin starred restaurants), ocean, mountains, and as a perfect pairing with Los Angeles 90 minutes south, says Karna Hughes. “It’s a place to retreat and relax after the big city,” she says. Trains run from LA.


They’re still singing America’s 1972 hit ‘Ventura Highway” in this California town. “We’re one of the last quintessential California experiences!” says Julie Madsen. With clear, uncrowded beaches (perfect for surfing), Madsen recommends that Canadians “do the LA thing, then you come to Ventura and all that washes away.” About 90 minutes north of LA, it’s also the gateway to the ecologically amazing Channel Islands for a day trip.


Two hours north of LA and four hours south of San Francisco, “Yennez” Valley is comprised of six districts that encapsulate “everything California has to offer, with wide open spaces and no traffic,” says tourist board president and CEO Shelby Sim. Exuding a classic Americana feel (mostly), communities include Santa Ynez (cowboy/horses), Los Olivos (wine), Los Alamos (hipster), Buellton (petrol), and the unique Solvang, dubbed the “Danish Capital of America,” complete with a windmill.


“If you go to San Francisco, you have to go to Monterey,” says Emily Evans. Situated on the famous bay (and known for its aquarium and wildlife), there is also golf (notably Pebble Beach), wine, the ghost of John Steinbeck, plus scenic Carmel and Big Sur nearby. But what visitors may not know is the world class culinary scene that hit new heights during pandemic as many chefs (including Michelin stars) moved into the community to take advantage of the bounty of the sea and abundant produce (including wonderful artichokes befitting the region’s status as “artichoke capital of the world.”)


Christina Glynn says her region is “open for business” after recent floods and fire. And Canadians, who can fly into nearby San Francisco or San Jose directly, will find “a lot to explore in a small amount of space,” ranging from a historic seaside amusement park (with central roller coaster) and the largest contiguous strand of Redwood trees in the world at Henry Cowell State Park.


Naturally, visitors are drawn by the world-famous wine, but don’t discount Napa’s music scene, says Sarah Gillihan. Live music can be found at local venues, events such as the Summer Series, and jazz and even classical music fests – and of course at some of the wineries. Not into music there’s also hiking, biking, kayaking, birding/wildlife and more. “I don’t think people expect that they can have a non- alcoholic visit,” says Gillihan.

RELATED STORY: All that glitters in the Golden State

CALIFORNIA DREAMIN’: All that glitters in the Golden State


First published at Travel Industry Today


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