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For a few months each year, elephant seals come ashore and form colonies for the purposes of giving birth, breeding, and molting...
In late November, mature males start to arrive at Piedras Blancas beach in Big Sur and and begin the fighting rituals that determine dominance, which in turn determines who gets to breed.
The females start arriving in the middle of December and continue to arrive until the middle of February. The first births begin about Christmastime, but the peak of the birthing season occurs during the last two weeks of January, so now's a very good time to visit!
The pups are typically born within four or five days of the female's arrival, and they weigh around 60 pounds. The pups only nurse for about 26 days, but they are nursing on the richest milk in the mammal world, giving them the sustenance they need for the coming weeks of learning to survive on their own.
See it all at the Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery in the southern part of Big Sur near San Simeon!
Friends of the Elephant Seals provide volunteer docents at the viewpoint to answer questions and help visitors.
Discover what it was like when James Marshall found gold in the Sierra foothills, several miles east of Sutter's Fort, on January 24, 1848!
Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park is hosting a celebratory event on Saturday, January 24, 2015 - 167 years after the original event - which will include live music, guest speakers, a living history program, gold panning, tin punching, food and more.
For more about the gold in California, visit Discover the California Gold Rush, Discovery of Gold, How to Pan for Gold, and Northern California Gold Rush Sites. To see photos of Marshall Gold Discovery SHP, check out our Facebook album.
Rated one of the Top 10 Seafood & Wine Festivals by Coastal Living Magazine, this festival is also one of our Top 10!
Devour your favorite Dungeness crab recipes at local crab feeds, winemakers' dinners, wine competitions, crab cruises, cooking classes, cioppino feeds and crab cake cook offs, along with lots of other seafood! Many restaurants and Inns celebrate with specials and events throughout the county.
Go crab fishing out of Noyo Harbor, don your bib for a tasty crab feed at Little River Inn, hop on the Skunk Train for wine tasting and crabby bites, enjoy Mendocino stories and music, grab a spot on a bench for the Pentecost Hall Cioppino dinner, join in on one of the All You Can Eat Crab Feeds, vote for your favorites at the Crabcake Cook-off - that's just a few of the fun actitivities taking place throughout the Mendocino coastal area this week!
For more about Mendocino, visit Discover Fort Bragg, Discover Little River, and Discover Mendocino Village. To see photos of the Mendocino coastal areas, check out our Facebook albums, Mendocino Village, Mendocino's Pygmy Forest, and Fort Bragg's Noyo Harbor.
It's the fifth annual Napa Truffle Festival this weekend - good timing for California Restaurant Month, I might add - bringing you culinary and scientific experts from the world of European truffles!
Activities include a truffle cultivation seminar, wild mushroom forages, winery lunches with wine pairings, truffle dog training demos, special truffle dinners, and culminate with the Napa Truffle Festival Marketplace on Monday.
Master Chefs who are participating in this wine and truffle weekend include Host Chef, Ken Frank, owner of La Toque (Napa); Riccardo Agostini of Ristoranti il Piastrino (Pennabilli Rimini, Italy); Roberto Donna from Al Dente Ristorante (Washington, D.C.); and Tony Esnault of Church and State (Los Angeles).
Many U.S. National Parks are participating in fee-free days, meaning the fees normally charged for entrance to the parks will be waived.
And many National Park food, transportation, and lodging concessioners are also offering special experiences and discounts to visitors, making fee-free days an even better bargain!
The next event takes place this Monday, January 19th, so... bundle up, get outdoors, and enjoy your National Parks!
For more about the area around Whiskeytown, visit Discover Shasta County; see Discover Tehama County for the Gateway to Lassen; and for more about Yosemite, see Discover Yosemite National Park. To see photos of Yosemite, check out our Facebook album, Yosemite National Park in Winter.
Not least of which is Monterey. Monterey County Culinary Month runs from January 1 through January 31 and promises lots of scrumptious eats!
Monterey County is a dining destination thanks to its culinary dedication to the concept of farm-to-table - it is, after all, the largest vegetable producing region in the United States!
Find out for yourself all month long and save money while you sample and savor the best dishes that Monterey County has to offer. Just mention California Restaurant Month at participating restaurants to receive their special discounts.
The SYRCL (South Yuba River Citizens League) Wild & Scenic Film Festival returns to Nevada City and Grass Valley in California's celebrated Gold Country for its 13th year this weekend, January 15 - 18, 2015 and I promise you, it's bigger and better than ever!
The theme this year is "A Wild Life," so expect to see an amazing selection of films about some of the world's most remote and beautiful sites.
Wild & Scenic Film Fest is one of the largest film festivals of its kind, presenting 120 films, live music, workshops, art, parties, eco tours, and public events that are designed to inspire and motivate people from all over the world to take steps toward making a difference in how we interact with this third planet from the sun that we call home.
Trendy Marin County presents a marvelous venue for California Restaurant Month, with restaurants and eateries large and small, scattered throughout the county.
Using locally-sourced ingredients from the fine farmers and farmers markets, local chefs create their best specialty dishes and menus for your culinary pleasure.
And they make it easy for you! There are no special requirements, no tickets or passes - just visit one of the many participating restaurants, mention Restaurant Month, and enjoy everything from a free hot drink when you buy a pastry, to prix fixe meals, to weekend brunches.
Snuggled between the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the Coastal Range, the California Central Valley is a place of agriculture, california history, and now - california wines as well!
While not technically a part of California Restaurant Month, nonetheless, Chefs' Holidays in Yosemite is a pretty good way to celebrate California Restaurant Month!
And if you want to know what's what on the American and California Cuisine Scenes, Chefs' Holidays - held at the Ahahnee each year in January and February - is the place to be!
You'll have the opportunity to experience a range of styles, personalities, and trends by meeting the chefs who are in the forefront of culinary innovation. Chefs like Sarah & Evan Rich of Rich Table in San Francisco; John Cox of Sierra Mar at Post Ranch Inn, Big Sur; and Peter Armellino of Plumed Horse in Saratoga.
The sessions consist of a Meet the Chefs reception, cooking demos and tastings, a Gala Dinner, and behind-the-scenes kitchen tours.
I always know when the time for Chico's Snow Goose Festival is fast approaching - even before I look at a calendar - for a couple of reasons. The weather starts getting really cold (for us), and the Sandhill Cranes are flying over my house as they head south for the winter. (And I know when winter is about to be over, as they pass over again on their way back north!)
The 16th Annual Snow Goose Festival in Chico, January 21 – 25, 2015, will again celebrate the spectacular winter waterfowl migration in the North Sacramento Valley.
These birds - millions of geese, ducks, swans, and other species - travel hundreds and thousands of miles every year from their summer nesting grounds in Alaska, Canada, and Siberia to reach warmer climes from California to the tip of South America.
They fly what is known as the Pacific Flyway - a major migratory path that includes the Great Central Valley of Northern California - which provides many wetland resting and feeding stops that are essential to their survival. Stops like the natural wetlands and flooded rice fields of the Shasta Cascade area.
Chico's Snow Goose Festival shares the story of this magnificent migration through over 60 field trips, workshops, and other activities - many of which are free.
Calaveras County attractions cover the alphabet from A to Z - antiques, big trees, caves and caverns...
Calaveras County is deep in the heart of California's Gold Country, but it's also known for wine making, water sports, winter activities ... come along and find out more!
San Francisco Restaurant Week (formerly Dine About Town)
January 21 - January 30
Over 100 restaurants are participating with special prices on two-courses lunches and/or three-course dinners - and new this year is the Discovery (tasting) Menu at select restaurants.
Vacaville Restaurant Week
January 16 - January 25
It's easy... No tickets necessary. Just choose a restaurant from the list and enjoy specially priced meals!
Oakland Restaurant Week
January 15 - January 25
Oakland Restaurant Week celebrates the growing culinary scene in Oakland with ten days of special deals - it's your chance to sample the new and trendy Oakland food scene at reduced prices!
Tuolumne County Restaurant Week
January 18 - January 24
Restaurants throughout the County will be offering very special pricings, including a $30 three-course dinner menu at the 1859 Historic National Hotel in Jamestown. It’s a great opportunity to get a taste of the many great restaurants in the Yosemite area Gold Country!
Many other communities, towns, cities, and counties throughout NorCal are participating in California Restaurant Month - we'll be bringing you more info throughout the month, so stay tuned and check back regularly!
Sonoma Valley – widely known for its Mediterranean climate that produces world-class wine grapes and award-winning wines – is also the perfect setting for growing outstanding olives and the production of flavorful olive oils. And Sonoma Valley celebrates its olives throughout the months of January and February each year!
Visit during Olive Season and you'll discover specialty workshops, massages, dishes, and even drinks that will bring new ideas and innovative techniques to your repetoire of all things olive.
Attend tastings and tours, picnic in an historic olive grove, visit Ramekins Culinary School, experience Martini Madness, and more... the list of olive-related activities goes on and on - for two months in fact!
Fireworks Over the Bay: Claim a spot along the Embarcadero near Pier 14, atop a skyscraper, or on the water for fabulous fireworks in San Francisco!
Six Flags Discovery Kingdom New Year's Eve is the place to be for a family-friendly celebration that includes fireworks!
New Year's Eve Sky Spectacular - or head for Old Sacramento for more family-friendly New Year's Eve fun!
Fire and Ice around Lake Tahoe offers several options for kid-friendly-types and over 21-ers!
For more about San Francisco, visit Discover San Francisco; for Sacramento, see Discover Sacramento; and for more about Lake Tahoe, Discover Lake Tahoe. To see photos of Old Sacramento, check out our Facebook album, Sacramento County, Old Sac, California State Railroad Museum.
Big Sur Beaches are sometimes dramatic, sometimes peaceful, and sometimes dangerous. But they are always beautiful!
Ring in the New Year at the 29th Annual Japanese New Year Bell Ringing Ceremony at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco on December 31st...
Spend New Year's Eve with EyeHeartSF for the 6th Annual Streets of SF NYE at the Fort Mason Festival Pavilion on December 31st...
For mind-blowing stand-up, live music, and a massive balloon drop, it's the 6th annual Not Your Normal NYE at Herbst Theatre on December 31st...
Or how about a Family-friendly New Year's Eve at Playland-Not-at-the-Beach in El Cerrito...
For more about Santa Clara County, visit Discover Santa Clara County.
The highly anticipated annual SnowGlobe Music Festival rocks South Lake Tahoe by bringing music to the mountains from the likes of Skrillex, The Floozies, and Aeroplane - over 40 world-class performances on the Main Stage, in the Sierra Tent, and the Igloo over three days.
Then there are the After Parties each night to keep the music flowing - what a way to rock in the New Year!
For more about Tahoe, visit Discover Lake Tahoe - North, South, East & West.
Come for the beaches, the redwoods, the camping; but don't miss the artsy, the Hippie, and the Bohemian - these are great Big Sur attractions too!
Hidden in the Northeast corner of Northern California is this amazing land of volcanic lava tube caves with their own micro-climates, Native American rock art, wilderness, and historic battlefields!
Experience the centuries-old culture of the Modoc tribe and their tumultuous history with the late-coming white settlers. Learn about the diverse plants and animals that call this harsh environment Home, Sweet Home. Have a moonscape wilderness experience for the day or during an overnight stay.
Explore a cave, hike a trail, photograph wildlife, climb a spatter cone, contemplate a battlefield, peer into a crater, visit rock art sites...
For more Modoc County, see: Discover Modoc County
For more about what there is to see and do in Northern California, visit: DiscoverNorthernCalifornia.com
How many of us have had the opportunity to explore Ancient Egypt? Too far away, you say? Too expensive right now?
Maybe not - visiting the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum in San Jose, CA takes you back in time to discover the secrets of the ancient ones - their history, their beliefs, their practices...
Even before you enter the museum, you'll feel as if you've time-warped onto foreign and exotic soil!
Set amongst the broad lawns and rose gardens of beautiful Rosicrucian Park, you'll find not only the museum - which was modeled after the Temple of Amon in Karnak - but also the Planetarium building, the Rosicrucian Temple, the Research Library, and the Peace Garden, all of which were inspired by Moorish and Egyptian architecture.
What's so special about this Egyptian Museum? It's not just about the exhibits. Naturally, you'll learn about burial practices and the Afterlife, you'll meet kings and pharaohs; but you'll also find out about the daily lives of your average ancient Egyptian - the farmers and craftsmen, scribes and homemakers.
For more about what there is to see and do in the San Jose area, visit Discover Santa Clara County
A visit to Roaring Camp Railroads in Felton will take you back to the 1880s when narrow-gauge steam locomotives were used to haul giant redwood logs out of the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Travel over trestles, through towering redwood groves and up a winding narrow-gauge grade to the summit of Bear Mountain as conductors narrate the history of Roaring Camp, the railroad and the forests!
Visit during January, February, and March for Rain Forest Weekends - trips through virgin Redwood forest - to learn about Northern California's version of a rain forest and how moderate temperatures and a year-round water supply provided by the Pacific systems and dense fog support this unique ecosystem.
Roaring Camp CEO Georgiana Clark says, “In winter, California’s rain forest is most dramatic. Storms whip branches; foliage glistens; and the air is filled with the aroma of California bay laurel and tanbark oak.”
For more about what there is to see and do in Northern California, visit: DiscoverNorthernCalifornia.com
Yosemite National Park is always amazing, but never more-so than during the Winter! You'll find that there's plenty of life in the ol' gal and a hoard of things to do.
That should get you started! Yosemite is extraordinarily beautiful in the Wintertime with the dramatic weather and a thick blanket of snow.
Speaking of snow, conditions for skiing at Badger Pass are great this year!
For more about Yosemite: Discover Yosemite National Park
The Village Project presents its tenth annual Kwanzaa celebration at various venues throughout San Francisco next week.
Kwanzaa is a seven day festival that strives to unite African peoples in the Diaspora in strengthening family and community through the Seven Principles of Unity, Self-determination, Collective work and responsibility, Cooperative economics, Purpose, Creativity, and Faith.
In San Francisco each principle will be given its day of recognition and celebration through live entertainment, film, music, literature, and dance.
Instead, gather up the friends and family for Mendocino Hotel's annual Christmas Dinner on December 25 from 3:00 pm in their beautiful Victorian Dining Room. Choose between two soups and a salad for your starter; four delightful entrees; and three holiday inspired desserts.
Think about it - no cooking, no clean-up, no packing up of leftovers, and no dishes. Just time spent sitting leisurely around the table, enjoying your loved ones in a beautiful Victorian setting with wait-staff to cater to your every need.
Call 707.937.0511 for reservations.
The snow dances are working, dear friends, and a snowy, wonderful, magical holiday season has arrived! Are you in? We sure hope so! Continue reading for more reasons to be in Mono County this holiday!
Snow report: Recent back-to-back storms have blessed Mammoth Mountain with almost three feet of new snow since December 12, and over a foot on June Mountain.
More is anticipated this weekend -- visit Mammoth Weather.
For more about where to find snow in Northern California, visit Alpine County, Lake Tahoe, and Yosemite National Park. For staying safe on Winter roads, take a look at Winter Driving Tips. To see more photos of Northern California snow, check out our Facebook album, Yosemite NP in Winter.
Santa Cruz California - Quintessential California Beach Town - municipal wharf for fishing and crabbing, the mainland's first Surf City, salt water taffy, and the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk!
Six Flags and Chabad team up to bring you the Northern California Chanukah Festival this Sunday with all kinds of delightful holiday activities!
For a discounted park admission, you can celebrate Chanukah at the park with a Menorah Lighting Ceremony, the Story of Chanukah, the Chanukah Choir, Dec-a-Dradel, face painting, Kosher Chanukah foods, Live Music, and family activities.
And that's all in addition to the thrill rides, family rides, kids rides, animal attractions, animal encounters, and many other entertaining amusement park things to do!
Despite that it's such a huge tourist attraction, Fishermans Wharf in San Francisco is an honest-to-goodness neighborhood that still practices the traditions of its Italian fishermen!
When Winter weather arrives in Northern California, it's time for some Winter driving tips!
Snow is falling in the High Sierras, just in time for the holidays!
Celebrate the 13 days of Christmas at Heavenly Holidays, a two-week festival for the whole family at the Heavenly Village featuring professional ice skating shows, ice sculptors, carolers, local artists and a 16-foot snow globe where kids can get their photos taken with Santa.
It all starts December 20, 2014 and culminates December 31 with A Heavenly New Year’s Celebration including ice sculptors, live music, fire dancers and a 9:00pm ball drop and fireworks show.
Santa's Workshop Snow Globe
Dec 20 - 24
Santa's Workshop will be recreated in the Heavenly Village inside of a 16-foot snow globe. Head inside the snow globe to sit on Santa's lap for a unique photo opportunity.
Heavenly Ice Rink
Dec 28 - 30
The ice skating shows will be different each night, so come back nightly to see a new show.
Large ice sculptures will be created during ice sculpting exhibitions that will create a magical ice wonderland in the Village.
New Year's Eve Celebration
The evening is packed with world-class music, games, fireworks, and the world's only Gondola Ball Drop. The party continues into the night at one of the many casino nightclubs.
For more about Lake Tahoe, visit Discover Lake Tahoe.
Did you know there are actually two versions of San Francisco Chinatown - the Tourist version, and the Locals' version. Just how different are they?
Sailing ships, fishing fleet, walkaway seafood snacks, shopping, street performers - you'll find all this and more at the San Francisco Fishermans Wharf!
Each December, The Ahwahnee hotel in Yosemite National Park provides the perfect backdrop for The Bracebridge Dinner at Yosemite, a unique American holiday tradition.
It’s a captivating blend of world-class musical theatre and cuisine, inspired by Washington Irving’s tales about a 17th-century Old English Yuletide, all set in the majestic natural beauty of Yosemite in winter.
Since it began in 1927, The Bracebridge Dinner at Yosemite has earned an unrivaled reputation for reconnecting each guest with the spirit and enchantment of the holidays.
As a result, it is recognized as one of the most sought-after holiday events in the U.S. In 2006, The Wall Street Journal reported, "Bracebridge is, without much doubt, the country's, if not the world's, premier Christmas dinner."
Join Squire Bracebridge and Company at the beautiful Ahwahnee Hotel for dining and merriment on the following dates: December 12/13, 14, 16, 18, 20, 22, 24, or on Christmas Day itself.
This spirited holiday parade begins on First and D Street and ends on H Street in downtown Benicia.
The parade features local marching bands, dancers, and the much-anticipated Santa Claus.
Enjoy a Holiday Market featuring handcrafted arts and crafts, gourmet items and delicious foods.
Pass under the Dragon Gate on Grant - you'll feel you've stepped into another country. Chinatown San Francisco, with it's pagoda roofs and bright colors, is the largest Chinese community outside Asia.
San Francisco neighborhoods are the BEST part of San Francisco. IMHO, they are what MAKE San Francisco the unique city that it is. Visit the neighborhoods with us!
Today’s guests see marble fireplaces from Italy, gold framed mirrors from France, and exquisitely handcrafted hinges and doorknobs, all of which are reminders of the Gallatins and the Victorian era. Outside some of the Mansion’s abundant vegetation includes flowers, shrubs, and trees dating back to 1877. But when visitors look behind the grape stake fence and see Governor Brown’s swimming pool built in 1959, they are reminded that the Governor’s Mansion State Historic Park is really a walk through time.
Visit Sacramento this Saturday, December 13, and experience the Governor's Mansion in lavishly re-created period decor with an impressive array of live holiday music during the special Christmas Memories events.
Surrounded by docents in period costume, Mansion visitors will be transported back in time to the very place where thirteen of California's early governors and their families lived, spent Christmas seasons and shared holiday traditions.
What's San Francisco California mean to you? Theater? GG Bridge? Dining? Alcatraz? Shopping? It's all that, but what about neighborhoods? Not your usual image? Come and see what you might have missed.
I love to report on this every year because it's just so festive! It's the Santa Cruz Holiday Lights Train...
Vintage excursion cars, adorned with thousands of colorful lights, roll through the streets of Santa Cruz as passengers lend their voices to holiday carols, sip hot spiced cider or hot chocolate, and listen to musical entertainment while Santa visits the little ones, or the young at heart!
Continue the merriment with inclusive activity at Santa's Kingdom at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.
The train departs from the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and the ride lasts for about an hour. Other holiday train rides in Santa Cruz include the Chanukah Train (December 18), and the Holiday Tree Walk. Click on the Permalink below for more information.
Looking for San Francisco attractions? This is the place! Let's explore Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars, Alcatraz, Fisherman's Wharf, Chinatown, Coit Tower, Union Square & Union Street..
Two famous Gold Rush towns, Nevada City and Grass Valley, are more than just neighbors - they share similar histories, so we shouldn't be surprised that they have similar events during the holidays!
Nevada City jumps back in time to Victorian days with its Victorian Christmas on several Wednesday evenings and Sunday afternoons in December. Store merchants are garbed appropriately, musical entertainers stroll the streets, lights twinkle, gas lamps glow, chestnuts roast, folks ride in horse-drawn carriages, holiday foods and libations are tasted, and Father Christmas puts in an appearance.
Grass Valley time travels to recapture its Cornish roots with a Cornish Christmas celebration that includes carolers caroling, jugglers juggling, musicians playing, Tommyknocker Cloggers clogging, handmade arts and crafts, and more (don't miss Santa!) - all ensconced in a festive holiday atmosphere of lights and decorations and period costumes.
For more about Nevada City and Grass Valley, visit Nevada City by Melissa Sweat, and Visit Historic Downtown Grass Valley by Julia Jordan. To see photos of Grass Valley and the Empire Mine, check out our Facebook albums.
Looking for free things to do in Big Sur? We can help you with that!
Shopping in downtown Chico is a truly unique experience! You'll find one-of-a-kind boutiques, specialty shops, antique stores, and local restaurants.
Downtown Chico is one of the most inviting downtowns in all of California. California State University Chico is easy walking distance. Students and natives alike are active users of Chico's Downtown.
It's hard to believe that this one two-mile-long neighborhood in Fresno - in the heart of California's agricultural Great Central Valley - has been lighting up the nights from December 2 through December 25 for 92 years now, but it's true!
Sponsored by the Fig Garden Home Owners Association, Fresno's Christmas Tree Lane has a long and venerable history with millions of lights, 140 homes, and 300 decorated trees as of this year. There are two Walk Nights, reserved for walkers only so you can take your time and see it all.
One of the longest-running holiday events in the United States, Christmas Tree Lane has made Sunset Magazine and the Washington Post as a holiday tradition. It's so popular that more than 100,000 people visit each year.
For more about the Fresno area, visit Discover Fresno County.
Relive the Gold Rush with another of my Chico day trips! Historic buildings, hard-rock mining, museums, Old Towns, gold discovery site, gold panning, historic main streets-it's all on this day trip!
Looking for an interesting Day Trip from Chico, CA? Try Chico to Sutter Buttes! Drive or bike the circumference, or arrange for a guided hike! Which ever way you do it, the Buttes are amazing!