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Fun Things to Do in San Francisco Bay Area, Carmel, Napa Valley, Central CA

Things to do / Travel Guide

Horseback Riding around Central California

Oceano is a small town located about five minutes south of Pismo Beach (by car, that is), which is one of only a handful of places in California where it is legal to ride a horse on the beach. Horse rides usually cost $20 per hour or you can opt for a guided horseback tour which might cost you a little extra. Farther north in Big Sur's biggest state park there are plenty of places to ride horses. When trotting along through Andrew Molera State Park, you'll pass beautiful streams, secluded beaches, and even groves of Redwoods. Monterey Bay can also provide any of your equine needs with horses available for rides along the beach.

Butterfly Watching in Monterey and Pismo Beach, California

Butterfly watching is a popular activity from late October to early November, when black and orange Monarch butterflies flood the skies over the Monterey Peninsula. Pacific Grove, California, which was one of John Steinbeck's favorite spots, has been nicknamed “Butterfly City USA” thanks to the countless number of butterflies that come to town every year. In fact, there is a law on the local books against “molesting” the butterflies and those caught doing so could be subject to a hefty fine or face up to six months in a local jail! Further down the coast, Monarch butterflies also migrate through the area in around Pismo Beach from late November until February, building temporary nests in the local eucalyptus trees and in the Monterey pine tree groves. There's even a narrated 45-minute nature walk along Pismo Beach every Saturday and Sunday during the Monarch butterfly migratory season. Out on U.S. Highway 1 between Pismo Beach and Grover Beach, there's a Butterfly Grove which is really fun for everyone!

Dunes and Bird Watching around Pismo Beach

If you're mesmerized by sand dunes, there's no better place to go to check them out than the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes, located just 20 minutes by car south of Pismo Beach. The Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes has 18 miles of coastline and boasts of having the highest sand dunes on the West Coast. It's also a great place to see the endangered California brown pelican as well as other native birds and plants. In fact, over 200 different species of birds migrate or live in this unique area. The endangered California least tern also has one of its last known nesting colonies in the dunes.

Whale Watching around San Francisco and Monterey Bay, California

Whale watching is a popular activity along the central California coast from May-November (humpback whales) or December-April (gray whales); tours are operated from the Monterey Bay area. Whale watching tours usually leave from Fisherman's Wharf in Monterey Bay and also from the place of the same name in San Francisco. Three-hour cruises usually cost around $25 per person. Another recommended spot is around the Point Reyes National Seashore, where visitors can climb to the top of a historic lighthouse to see whales and elephant seals.

Mud Baths in Calistoga, California

At the far northern edge of Napa Valley and Sonoma County wine country sits the small town of Calistoga, where, for the past 150 years, tourists have been flocking to its famous mud baths. Calistoga has many natural baths filled with local volcanic ash, imported peat, and natural, boiling hot water that mixes together to create a warm mud bath. After bathing in the mud, people like to rinse themselves off with a mineral shower, followed by a whirlpool bath, and then a few moments in the steam room, finished with a wrap-around blanket. Mud bath spas in Calistoga are almost a dime a dozen and are generally inexpensive; prices range from $20-$50 in some places. Many are located along Lincoln Avenue in Calistoga.

As far as lodging is concerned, you will not find many California Motels in Calistoga, but you will find country inns, ranches and bed and breakfasts suited to a wide range of tastes and budgets.

Fun Attractions in San Francisco Bay Area, Carmel, Napa Valley, Central California Coast

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