As Indian Summer approaches, when we get relief from the summer heat and enter a season of changing leaves and cooler evenings, it's a perfect time to get outside and out of the Valley. Here are just of few of the cool places you might not have considered visiting.
What better time to climb Half Dome than when the air is cool and the sun's rays don't seem so strong? Pretty much never.
From rock climbing lessons to live Yosemite theater, there is always something to do at Yosemite park: Strolls under the stars, campfire story time, swimming and extreme climbing. There is also a golf course at Wawona and ice skating rink in Curry Village.
If sleeping in a tent isn't your thing, Yosemite also has accommodations that range from the four-diamond Ahwanhee Hotel to rustic tent cabins in Curry Village or Housekeeping camp.
In Yosemite, dining depends on the day. If you're hiking, you can take a boxed lunch. Many of the dining areas are open year round and offer outdoor seating during the summer months.
For more information, visit http://www.YosemitePark.com">http://www.YosemitePark.com.
Be a beach bunny. Find a celebrity. Treat yourself to a night in a hotel suite. Hike the popular State Street. Or hike the hills. Santa Barbara's white beaches and mission-style downtown provide a perfect backdrop for enjoying the fading summer heat.
From boutiques to large chains, State Street is where to shop in Santa Barbara. Stores range from Levi's Only Store, American Apparel, Volcom and Saks Fifth Avenue. To cure the second-hand bug, check out Alpha Thrift Store, Family Thrift and RADD Thrift.
Restaurants abound in this beach town. Figure out what you're craving and just pick one. You might even spot a celebrity like Oprah Winfrey whose 5 million dollar home hides in the nearby hills.
For activities in Santa Barbara, including a guide to beaches, camping, golfing, hiking, horseback riding, kayaking, surfing, tennis and whale watching, visit http://www.SantaBarbara.com">http://www.SantaBarbara.com.
Muir Woods National Monument
For a truly outdoor experience, visit Muir Woods just north of San Francisco. West coast redwood trees, Douglas-firs, big-leaf maples, tanbark oak and baylaurel grow as a reminder to what Marin County was like before generations of progress.
Fall is the warmest season at Muir Woods. Park officials say ladybugs swarm, crayfish are active in the Redwood Creek and the leaves of the big-leaf maple turn yellow.
The best way to explore Muir Woods is by walking trails, including Fern Creek Trail to Camp Eastwood and ocean view trail routes.
For a mid-day break, fuel up at the Muir Woods Cafe located in the heart of the Woods National Monument. They offer sandwiches, salads, specialty sausages and hot dogs, as well as frozen desserts, coffee and cold drinks.
For more information on Muir Woods, visit http://www.VisitMuirWoods.com">http://www.VisitMuirWoods.com.
Up, Up and Away
Hot-air balloons may seem like a fixture of a Disney movie, but people actually do it. At Up and Away in Sonoma, daring customers on the search for a romantic getaway will experience the Pacific Ocean and Napa Valley from overhead. At lower altitudes, ballooners will fly just above the grapevines. A dip into a lake or pond for a "splash and dash" is also common.
The ballooning cost is $215 per person. For more information, visit http://www.Up-Away.com">http://www.Up-Away.com.
Sly Park Recreation Area and Jenkinson Lake
Located in the western foothills of El Dorado County, just 13 miles east of Placerville, Sly Park offers a variety of fun and historical activities.
At the center of the park is Jenkinson Lake, also a major source of water for the El Dorado Irrigation District.
Enjoy day use and overnight camping at 191 campsites. There are 600 acres of lake water, nine miles of shoreline and 2 boat ramps - room for everyone. Rent a boat, canoe or kayak and spend the day on the lake. Also enjoy nine miles of hiking and equestrian trails.
For more information, visit http://www.eid.org">http://www.eid.org. Click on Sly Park Recreation on the right side.