Mendocino This picture-perfect village looks so “New England,” it stood in for a town in Maine in the TV series Murder, She Wrote. Visit charming shops and galleries, wander along glorious beaches, watch harbor seals lolling on the boulders at Laguna Point in MacKerricher State Park, and take a whale watch cruise to see migrating gray whales.
San Diego It has near-perfect weather and a truly amazing Sea World theme park, with Shamu and a Shark Encounter-so what more does the San Diego area need to be truly irresistible to families? How about Legoland California? Inspired by the Danish-made toy brick, Legoland is composed of 30 million Lego bricks. Rides and attractions, geared to young children, include a dragon coaster, a maze, and a junior driving school.
Santa Cruz What’s not to like about a town with a statue and a museum-dedicated to surfing? This city woos visitors with its casual attitude and natural beauty. In summer, there’s an old-fashioned amusement park on the beach; in winter, about 150,000 monarch butterflies cluster on the eucalyptus trees in Natural Bridges State Park.
Willits Cross San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge heading north and Willits is the first stoplight. Sure, it’s 150 miles, but locals will grin and tell you it’s because they’re too poor to afford a freeway bypass. Yet. As “the heart of Mendocino County,” Willits is the ideal home base for easy access to the major attractions of one of Northern California’s most scenic areas. This is the home of “Seabiscuit,” the amazing Depression-era race horse immortalized in a best-selling book and major motion picture. Tours are available to Ridgewood Ranch, where Seabiscuit once lived and is now buried in a secret grave. Willits is also the inland terminus for the legendary “Skunk Train” that glides through history and redwood forests to Ft. Bragg on the spectacularly rugged Mendocino Coast. Home of the “oldest continuous rodeo in California”: every Fourth of July week since 1927.