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Photography by Getty Images

The El Matador State Beach is probably just as photogenic as the swimsuit models who are often found posing on its sleek stretches of sand.  If you plan to make the trip, keep your eyes peeled for the sandy hideaway off the Pacific Coast Highway and be aware of the steep 150-foot hike from its upper cliffs down to the beach.

Daily Escapes!

Photography by Ian Shive / Aurora Photos

We’re getting ready for the summer, and there’s no better way to help you prepare than to take a virtual vacation to some of the best beaches in the US. Go sunbathing or surfing on Santa Monica Beach, take a stroll along the Santa Monica Pier, or enjoy the rides — like Pacific Plunge, West Coaster or Sea Dragon — at the amusement park.

Daily Escapes!

Photo Courtesy of iStockPhoto

Take a relaxing, leisurely bike ride along the coast of Big Sur for picturesque views of the majestic Santa Lucia Mountains and Pacific Ocean.

Daily Escapes!

Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival

Photography by Getty

This April, thousands of free-spirited music lovers will flock to the California desert for the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio.

The annual 2 weekend, 3-day festival will take place April 11-13 and 18-20. It will feature multiple stages for live music performances from more than 150 artists, and from every genre, including rock, hip-hop and electronic. This year’s headliners include OutKast, Muse and Arcade Fire, in addition to other popular artists such as Ellie Goulding, Pharrel Williams and Lana Del Rey. READ MORE

Heading into Pasadena, CA, for the big game? Before Florida State University and Auburn University step foot inside The Rose Bowl for tonight’s Bowl Championship Series (BCS) National Championship, don’t miss out on all the great restaurants, bars, hotels and attractions in and around the City of Roses.

If you’re looking for an all-American dining experience in Pasadena, look no further then Pie n’ Burger, a classic burger joint that celebrates the American traditions of burgers and pie. Not in the mood for pie? No problem! Head to Pasadena’s favorite ice cream parlor, Fair Oaks Pharmacy, famous for its simple ice cream sundaes, lime rickeys and milkshakes. And after all that eating, burn off some calories with a walk down the road to stop by The Norton Simon Museum and check out the 5 must-see pieces at the museum named for a man and his money.

When I’m traveling to Pasadena, my favorite place to stay is just 20 minutes away, in the City of Angels: Los Angeles. For a classy place to stay, check out our picks for some of the city’s most romantic hotels. Also, when staying in LA, there are so many activities and restaurants that are sure to get your heart racing and your tummy growling. Don’t miss out on some of the simple, low-budget activities in the city, as well as some of LA’s most mouthwatering meals on wheels.

And for a little more family fun after the big game, a short, 45-minute drive down the I-5 from Pasadena will land you in Anaheim, home to Disneyland, beaches, hotels, restaurants and more.

Photography by Paul Giamou / Aurora Photos

The rugged abandon of California’s Central Coast has been given the cinematic treatment in Sundance darling and newly released Big Sur, starring Kate Bosworth. Based on Jack Kerouac’s eponymous novel, the film highlights the haunting beauty and isolated wilderness that drew the Beat writer to retreat here in the first place.

Relive it for yourself, or discover the splendor of the serpentine coast for the first time, on one of America’s most beloved road trips.

Nowhere is the Pacific Coast Highway’s winding roads more magnificent than along Big Sur’s craggy cliffs and crashing surf some 30 miles south of Carmel, CA.

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Photo Courtesy of Elon Musk

Planes, trains and automobiles may be a thing of the past if US entrepreneur Elon Musk has his way. The billionaire has unveiled plans for a HyperLoop transportation system that will transport passengers between San Francisco and Los Angeles in under a half hour, compared with the nearly 6-hour drive that commuters now face on a good traffic day.

Elon Musk, founder of PayPal and Tesla Motors Inc., says the solar-powered system would shoot 28 passengers in an enclosed capsule through a low-pressure steel tube at 8oo miles per hour. According to the 57-page design plan, the project would cost less than $6 billion and transport 7.4 million people each way every year. The tube would be built along I-5 interstate highway, the busiest traffic corridor on the West Coast.

Although an innovative plan, HyperLoop still has a few huge hurdles to clear before it becomes a reality, including receiving the California state government’s approval for the project.  In addition to Cali’s stamp of approval, private companies would have to step in and build the HyperLoop because Musk will be too busy running electric car company Tesla and rocket manufacturer SpaceX. Any takers?

Tonight on an all-new Bizarre Foods America, Andrew Zimmern travels to Northern California for wine tasting in Napa and Sonoma, and jelly bean sampling at Jelly Belly in Fairfield, CA (outside of San Francisco). Get a complete list of what Andrew gets into tonight in our Northern California Travel Guide, and go behind the scenes with Andrew in our Bizarre Foods America: Northern California slideshow.

Watch a Sneak Peek: Grape Picking in California

Courtesy of LEGOLand Hotel

Think you can make an impressive LEGO home? Try building a hotel made of LEGOs. Now that the Ice Hotel has melted, take a spring fling with the family to America’s first LEGOLAND Hotel that just opened this month. Located right at the main entrance of LEGOLAND California Resort, guests can stay and play a LEGO’s throw away from the park’s attractions designed for the young and the young at heart.

Now, we should mention that the entire hotel isn’t made of LEGOs (this is earthquake-plagued California, after all), but the iconic plastic-building block is imaginatively integrated throughout this kiddie hotel heaven. Children and parents alike will be wowed by this novel hotel: approximately 3,422 LEGO models have been built throughout the hotel out of more than 3 million LEGO bricks (don’t worry, parents, you won’t have to clean up any of this). Everything comes to life here with 7 large-scale LEGO models that are animated, like a bubble-blowing LEGO dragon taking a bath on the patio that speaks to children passing by.

Guests can choose between 3 themed-rooms modeled after the most popular LEGOLAND areas: Pirate, Kingdom and Adventure. There’s plenty of room for the entire family, with 2 separate sleeping areas — a queen-size bed for grown-ups, and a separate area for up to 3 little ones, complete with a bunk bed, pull-out trundle bed and their very own TV. And each room has LEGO blocks ready for you to build your own architectural wonders.

Designed with imagination in every detail, the hotel’s fun features include secret whoopee cushions, disco-themed elevators, treasure trails and exploding toy boxes.  Dining is even kid-focused at LEGOLAND Hotel. Bricks Family Restaurant serves a breakfast and dinner buffet with a station specifically designed for kids at a height they can reach, while the Skyline Café features a LEGO city skyline with 35 kid-pleasing scenes.

With a fun place to rest and exclusive early-morning access to select rides and attractions at the park, families will be on a 24-hour fun-filled ride. While this is the only LEGOLAND where you can spend a night, there are LEGOLAND theme parks all over the world — from Florida to Germany to Malaysia. And while the parks will amaze any age, they are designed specifically for children 2 to 12.

 

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San Francisco is a huge tourist destination, with Alcatraz, Fisherman’s Wharf and the Golden Gate Bridge all drawing crowds. Sure, on my trip out west, I had to see the sights, but right across the famous red bridge was the best part of my getaway: The often-overlooked Mill Valley, located 14 miles north of San Francisco in the beautiful, mountainous Marin County.

What feels like a combination of beach town and Swiss mountain hamlet, Mill Valley offers a quiet taste of NorCal life, with boutique shops, eco-conscious restaurants and enough outdoor space to fill days and days with hiking. When I escaped to warmer climes for a week, stumbling upon Mill Valley was a happy accident.

My Top Picks in Marin County:

Mill Valley Inn
Imagine an upscale beachside hotel. But at the foot of a mountain. Surrounded by woods. With free breakfast, a free wine and cheese reception, a fireplace in the room and a balcony overlooking redwoods, this is my new favorite hotel. They’ll also offer you a bike, if you’d like to explore that way. But beware: there are a lot of hills.

El Paseo

Tucked away in a stone-covered alleyway, El Paseo is Tyler Florence and Sammy Hagar’s take on a traditional chophouse, serving up finely aged steaks and local, sustainable ingredients. The pair worked together to restore this historic restaurant, which was originally opened in 1948. El Paseo retains its rustic feel with exposed brick, reclaimed wood and plenty of candlelight. Also, you have to order a steak. And perhaps the crispy duck wings.

Bungalow 44
A stylish bar with large, cushy booths, Bungalow 44 prides itself on its California cuisine, as well as its creative cocktails. It doesn’t get much fresher than their cucumber margarita and perfectly cooked ahi tuna. Even though I ate here before the live Jazz started, I still felt like I was dining in a 1940s supper club.

Super Duper Burger
This place may claim to serve fast food, but it is anything but typical. There are 5 locations throughout San Francisco, and luckily there is one right down the street from the Mill Valley Inn. The beef is delivered from San Fran’s own Niman Ranch and ground fresh daily. The pickles are homemade and the buns are toasted. Top it all off with fries finished with fresh garlic and 6-month aged cheddar. I mean, come on.

Stinson Beach

Even on a foggy day, Stinson Beach is a beautiful place for a walk. Climb over rocks and watch the waves crash below you, or sit along the shore and watch the surfers take their chances. Hidden on the other side of Mount Tamalpais, (if you’re prone to car sickness, watch out – the road is CURVY) this beach feels worlds away from Mill Valley. On the drive back, pull over wherever you can find a parking spot, because sure enough, there will be a trailhead with spectacular views of the water.

Marin Headlands

If you pull off the road right before getting on the Golden Gate Bridge, you’ll come across the Marin Headlands. Drive up the road a little and you’ll find overlooks that’ll take your breath away. After grabbing pics of the San Francisco skyline, hike a little further. Not only will the Golden Gate look so close you could touch it, but there you’ll also find the historic Fort Barry and Fort Cronkhite. Or what’s left of them.

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