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What's New in California - Visit California's quarterly release highlighting new travel and tourism related attractions, hotels, restaurants and more in every region of the Golden State.

Insights Online - Visit California's monthly newsletter for travel industry professionals features information on marketing and promotional programs, trade shows, upcoming events and research.

California Travel Research Dashboard - Visit California's monthly Research Dashboard highlights key tourism industry indicators on occupancy, airport traffic and more. Also included are major indexes such as consumer confidence, employment and exchange rates.

Street art has brought colour and character to California’s public spaces for decades. Long before cultural influences like hip hop, street art was a way for marginalized communities, such as the Latino population, to celebrate cultural icons and make political statements. Today, canvases can range from highly refined chalk art rendered on city streets, to multi-story wall paintings (legally) covering commercial buildings. Here is your guide to some of the best examples so you can enjoy the wide and wonderful canvas that makes up California’s home-grown street art.


Tours:

San Francisco – 1AM Gallery
Instead of pounding the pavement looking for great SF street art, you can actually get an informative overview, insider tour and chance to create your own (perfectly legal) street art thanks to the graffiti gurus at 1AM Gallery. For some DIY explorations, you can also download the gallery’s 1AM Mobile app from the iTunes store. www.1amsf.com

Graff Tours – Los Angeles
Based in New York, Graff Tours also recruits local LA artists to lead tours through their city’s best street art locations. Artists plan routes, provide overviews of techniques and styles of all kinds of public art (including graffiti, wheat paste and stencil art) and often show their own work. www.grafftours.com
 
Locations:

Balmy Alley – San Francisco
Long home to San Francisco’s alternative arts and music scene, the city’s Mission District is also the location of Balmy Alley, a legendary spot to see the work of established “writers” and painters, as well as up-and-coming talents. The earliest murals date to the 1970’s and were political statements about US policies in Latin America. Between Folsom and Harrison Streets off 24th Street. www.balmyalley.com

Chicano Park – San Diego
What started as a political stand-off over a plot of land between local authorities and young Latino activists in the 1970’s has since became a park below the Coronado Bay Bridge that is now home to the largest concentration of murals in the country. Located in San Diego’s Barrio Logan neighbourhood, Chicano Park’s 70-plus murals were recently restored and later catalogued by a University of San Diego student project. The 8-acre park is now listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. www.chicano-park.org

Melrose Avenue – Los Angeles
In the mid-Eighties, as Melrose Avenue became a global mecca for hip style, the street and surrounding alleys became a magnet for street artists that have since become household names like Banksy and Shepard Fairey. The scene evolved further as shop owners started asking the renegade artists to paint their stores and ever since, street art has become an indelible part of the fabric of Melrose Avenue.  Melrose Avenue from La Brea Ave. to Fairfax Ave.

Van Nuys – Mural Mile
A young crew of Millennial-aged artists are transforming this stretch of the northeast San Fernando Valley with vibrant murals that celebrate their Latino heritage by depicting everyone from Frida Kahlo to Danny Trejo. Van Nuys Boulevard between Foothill Boulevard and San Fernando Road

1984 Summer Olympics Murals – Los Angeles
Held in Los Angeles, The 1984 Summer Olympics presented an opportunity for the city to flex its creative muscle on a global scale. Ten murals were created celebrating the games and the city along two major arteries that meet in downtown LA, the Harbor (Hwy. 110) and Hollywood (Hwy. 101) freeways. Restoration began several years ago to celebrate this year’s 30th anniversary of the summer games and Olympic Arts Festival. Most of the murals have been saved and retain their vibrancy. Highways 110 and 101, Downtown Los Angeles

Events:

First Fridays Festival – Downtown Oakland
This monthly gathering of artists, musicians, spoken word performers and local culinary favourites is a great place to stroll Oakland’s emerging downtown scene and see street art in the making. Held in Oakland’s KONO district, the First Fridays Festival is rapidly becoming a signature Bay Area event. www.oaklandfirstfridays.org

Street Painting Festival – Temecula
Part of the annual Temecula Art Festival weekend, the Street Painting Festival takes place every June and transforms the town’s Main Street into a canvas for plain air masterpieces done in chalk by families, kids and professional artists who use the asphalt to create murals of over 100 square feet in size. http://temeculaevents.org/streetpainting

Resources:

Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles Online – a non-profit organization based in Los Angeles dedicated to preserving, protecting and chronicling LA’s rich repository of citywide street art located in what many experts consider the mural capital of the world. http://www.muralconservancy.org FatCap – Online. An Old School original that has been chronicling the street art scene since 1998, FatCap has an extensive digital library of California based street art and the artists who paint and “write” in the Golden State. http://www.fatcap.com/usa/california.html  

US Consumer Monthly Newsletter - Visit California's free monthly consumer newsletter contains a wealth of California travel planning information. It includes activity and destination ideas, travel tools and special deals.

The state’s active lifestyle makes it a natural home for elite-level teams and athletes; the abundance of spectator experiences is a sports fan’s dream

One of the first things that comes to mind when people think of California is the healthy, active lifestyle that defines so much of state, whether you’re talking about food, fashion or outdoor activities. So it should come as no surprise that California has home court advantage when it comes to an abundance of opportunities for you to experience a wide range of professional and collegiate-level sports. The incredible constellation of star athletes and teams here makes California a sporting paradise without equal. The numbers say it all: with 20 pro teams across the state – far more than anywhere else in the country – California dominates the field, court, track and rink with something for every fan, no matter what their passion is.

The Teams

Whether a ball is batted, bounced, kicked, thrown or volleyed, a puck slapped or a throttle punched, from red-line motorsports to baseline jump shots, it all happens in California. Sure the team sports numbers are impressive: four NBA basketball teams, three NFL football teams, five MLB baseball teams, three NHL hockey teams, three MLS soccer teams and the Los Angeles Sparks of the WNBA. But the really remarkable thing about spectator sports in the Golden State isn’t just the amount, but the quality of the teams that makes the games such a draw for locals and visitors alike. California teams including the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco 49ers, San Francisco Giants, Oakland Raiders, Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks have racked up an impressive amount of World Championships, pennants and league titles.

It’s also worth noting that the state has hosted some of the most prestigious sporting events in the world, including the Olympic Games, FIFA World Cup, the Super Bowl, multiple World Series games, the PGA US Open and sailing’s America’s Cup, which returned to California for the fourth time in summer 2013.

The Players

When you think of the athletes who have made a name for themselves playing for California teams, they comprise a roster of stellar proportions that could rival anything found in a Hall of Fame. Indeed, many of them have received their sport’s highest honours. (The San Francisco 49ers alone have 14 members of the team represented in the Pro Football Hall of Fame). Their names stretch back decades, including all-stars like Sandy Koufax, Willie Mays, Reggie Jackson, Wayne Gretzky, Joe Montana, Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Chuck Muncie, to the current crop of mega-stars such as Kobe Bryant, Albert Pujols and Patrick Willis.

The Venues

Over the years, spectators have been consistently wowed by the spectacular natural settings at sporting events such as the Amgen Tour of California and America’s Cup races in San Diego and San Francisco Bay. But the state that Hollywood calls home definitely knows how to put on a show and design man-made venues that add to the excitement and comfort of the fans’ experience. From San Francisco Bay to the skyscrapers of Downtown LA, you’ll find spectacular venues such as LA’s Staples Center and San Francisco’s AT&T Park, with features such as luxury sky boxes, unobstructed field and city views and state-of-the-art amenities including giant LED screen video walls, Wi-Fi networks and special play areas for children.

Other Sports

In addition to major team and individual sports, California with its free-wheeling spirit is the perfect place to experience a year-round selection of alternative sports from mountain bike races to pro snowboarding and surfing. Competitions span the state and seasons ranging from the snow-capped Sierras of Mammoth Mountain to the big waves of Santa Cruz County. Here’s a sampling of some high-octane spectator experiences:
 
Mammoth Mountain is the official Training Ground for US Olympic Alpine, free skiing and snowboard training; pro snowboarders and skiers also regularly hit the slopes of North and South Lake Tahoe to stay in top form
AVP Pro Beach Volleyball in Santa Barbara
US Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach and Maverick’s Invitational in Half Moon Bay
BNP Paribas Open professional tennis extravaganza in Indian Wells
AutoClub Speedway in Fontana hosts NASCAR and IndyCar racing

Collegiate Sports

Besides their outstanding academic records, universities such as the University of California at Berkeley (Cal), Stanford, USC and UCLA have statistics as impressive on the field as in the classroom. California’s major universities field teams in all major sports (Cal fields 29 men’s and women’s varsity teams) including football, basketball, baseball, tennis, soccer, crew and others. Another outstanding feature of collegiate sports in California is the element of classic bowl games like Pasadena’s Rose Bowl and long-standing cross-town rivalries such as the storied competitions between USC and UCLA.

In California we don’t just acknowledge our diversity – we celebrate it. And some of the most colourful and charismatic demonstrations of this true California spirit are the Pride festivals held throughout the Golden State. Below you’ll find the most prominent of the LGBT Pride festivals, some of which – including San Francisco and Los Angeles – held the very first Pride parades in the country. No matter which you choose, you’ll find inclusive celebrations designed to welcome all in the spirit of bringing together locals and visitors alike.

LA Pride
The original Pride parade going strong since 1970, the fifty thousand revellers who gather for West Hollywood’s LA Pride event celebrate with an over-the-top parade and festival that includes special events like celebrity concerts, a Latino Carnival and roller disco party. The parade is held the first weekend of June. www.lapride.org  

Long Beach Pride
This Southern California community shows its Pride with a parade and festival along tree-lined Shoreline Drive. The two-day festival features seven dance areas and a main stage that has featured artists such as The Village People, Jennifer Hudson and India are held annually in May. www.longbeachpride.com  

Oakland Pride
Oakland and the East Bay community fly their colours every Labour Day weekend for Oakland Pride. Held on Broadway, the one-day event features a parade and festivities that include multiple stages hosting performers like Sheila E as well as a family and children’s garden. www.oaklandpride.org  

OC Pride
Orange County’s Pride event is an all-day August party that celebrates the community with a main stage showcasing top performers like Bonnie McKee, as well as a constellation of other activities including a dance tent and a symposium featuring film screenings, speakers and activists. www.prideoc.com  

Pacific Pride Festival (Santa Barbara)
Postcard-perfect Leadbetter Beach is the site of this Santa Barbara event which like other Pride festivals, supports services provided to the local LGBT community. Activities include a popular dog show, wine and beer garden, vendors and beachside dance tent. This is held annually in July. www.pacificpridefoundation.org  

Palm Springs Pride
Palm Springs shows its colours every November during this two-day Pride fest that features a full slate of events including a block party, parade and multiple other activities including everything from complimentary same-sex weddings to a drag pageant. www.pspride.org  

Pride Beach (Ventura)
Pride hits the beach in Ventura during this August weekend festival that brings the community together with parties and events like a craft beer bust that lead up to the main events: a parade, art show and celebration at Mission Park. www.vcpride.org  

Sacramento Pride
Pride comes to the state capital every June when the Capitol Mall becomes a centre of the LGBT community during this annual parade and festival. The one-day event features a dance pavilion, art zone, kid zone and vendors including local food trucks. www.sacramentopride.org  

Sacramento Rainbow Festival
The capital city’s Lavender Heights neighbourhood is the site of this Labour Day weekend block party that also features additional events like performances and club nights, all in the name of raising money for causes important to the LGBT community. www.facebook.com/SacRainbowFest1  

San Diego Pride
Held in the beautiful urban green space of Marston Point in Balboa Park, San Diego’s Pride event sizzles with multiple entertainment stages, a farmers market, art exhibits, a kids’ zone and hundreds of vendor booths. Held in July. www.sdpride.org  

San Francisco Pride For more than forty years, this grand dame of the pride festivals has taken to the streets of San Francisco hosting exhibits, parties and community-run performances and events. The star here, however, is an outrageously prideful parade. Held the last weekend in June. www.sfpride.org  

San Gabriel Pride
Pasadena’s Memorial Park and Levitt Pavilion is the site of this annual September event which emphasizes supporting the local San Gabriel Valley LGBT community as well as inclusivity. Events and activities include a Classic Car Show and Drag Queen Bingo. www.sgvpride.org  

Silicon Valley Pride
Silicon Valley makes a statement of support in mid-August with its own colourful one-day Pride party which attracts attendees from all over the Bay Area. San Jose’s Discovery Meadow hosts local and national entertainers, vendors and parties raising funds in support of the local LGBT community. www.svpride.com

As the breadbasket of the country, California is known for its bountiful harvests of everything from avocados to grapes. But the Golden State is also home to a wealth of Eden-like gardens that thrive thanks to California’s mild weather and variety of microclimates. We’ve selected ten standouts that are accessible to the public. Some are former estates, while others are public spaces set aside by cities for everyone’s enjoyment. Whatever their origin, all today represent a legacy of beauty and tranquillity available to locals and visitors alike.

Balboa Park Gardens – San Diego
San Diego is rightly celebrated for its sparkling seashore and lively Gas Lamp Quarter but another treasure can be found in the heart of the city at 1,400-acre Balboa Park. This magnificent urban green space includes a soaring Botanical Building which holds more than 2,100 plants including tropical palms and orchids while 18 other themed gardens offer resplendent displays ranging from a California Native Plant Garden to the Alcazar Garden patterned after famed a Spanish palace.

Descanso Gardens – La Canada
The former estate of a Los Angeles publishing magnate, Descanso Gardens is an idyllic 150-acre botanical garden hidden in the tidy Southern California foothill community of La Canada. Highlights include the much-loved Rose Garden, a Japanese Garden and Teahouse, a California Natives Garden and the largest collection of camellias in North America shaded by a grove of native coastal oaks.

Filoli – Woodside                                   
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Fioli, the former country house of gold mining magnate William Bowers Bourn II, is a 654-acre estate featuring manicured grounds first planted in the early 1920s. The 16-acre gardens bloom with wisteria, camellia, magnolia trees and an olive orchard. Located 30 miles south of San Francisco, the grand manor house and elegant formal gardens evoke a stately 19th century European sensibility.

Ganna Walska Lotusland – Montecito
Home to more than 3,000 plants from around the world, Lotusland is a botanical garden that was the former home and singular vision of opera diva Madame Ganna Walska. From 1941 until her death in 1984, she worked with top garden designers to create an exotic 37-acre refuge that includes everything from whimsical topiary designs to rare plants species. Multiple themed gardens bloom with specimens including bromeliad and butterfly-friendly gardens to the famous lotus pond, which was created from a converted swimming pool.

Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument Gardens – San Simeon
A National Historic Landmark and iconic estate perched on a hilltop along the Central Coast, Hearst Castle’s opulence is matched by the eccentric elegance of its gardens. Hearst had hundreds of thousands of annuals, perennials and bulbs planted so that the estate’s grounds would be in bloom any time of year. Along the winding pathways of the estate’s 127-acres, guests can see a wide variety of both native and non-native species including trees like cedar, Irish yew and Italian cypress as well as tulips, snap dragons and calla lilies, a favourite of architect Julia Morgan.

Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens – San Marino
One of railroad tycoon Henry E. Huntington’s most lasting legacies is the expansive and beautifully designed gardens that make up his former estate in San Marino now known as the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens. A carefully curated collection of specimens from around the world, the Huntington features more than 1,500 plant varieties spread across 120 acres. The twelve different themed gardens include the Desert Garden, Rose Garden, Jungle Garden and Japanese Garden with a ceremonial teahouse.

The Getty Center – Los Angeles
Fittingly, the gardens at the Getty Center are as much an art installation as a horticultural display. Most prominently, the Central Garden created by artist Robert Irwin is considered a living artwork, with constantly shifting elements created with the addition of new plants and artistic trimming. Defining features of the 134,000 square foot space include an artful, maze-like central topiary of azaleas in a central pool framed by tree-lined walkways, fountains and over 500 different types of plants including bougainvillea and cactus.

McKinley Rose Garden – Sacramento
The newly refurbished McKinley Rose Garden in the state capital’s McKinley Park is a much-loved display of 1,200 rose bushes. The 1.5-acre park went from a private to public park in 1902 and has been a favorite stop for photos, weddings and other events ever since. The McKinley Rose Garden is also one of only several dozen to earn a place as an All-America Rose Selection display garden.

San Francisco Botanical Garden at Styrbing Arboretum – San Francisco
This 55-acre enclave in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park represents one of the most diverse displays of plant life in the world. Thanks to the Bay Area’s unique microclimate, species from far-flung areas as diverse as Central American cloud forests and temperate areas of Asia thrive. Over 8,000 types of plants, including some extremely rare varieties no longer found in their native habitats, can be viewed here, as well as magnolias, native redwoods and passion vines from Chile.

The Living Desert Zoo & Gardens – Palm Desert
Dedicated to preserving desert environments through education and appreciation, the Living Desert Zoo & Gardens offers a unique opportunity to view thriving desert eco-systems from throughout the world. Focusing on the deserts of North America and Africa, this is where visitors can view more than 1,400 species of desert plants in various themed areas separated by family – such as agave and ocotillo – as well as geographic region, including Mohave, Vizcaino and Upper Colorado.

 

Searching for Brangelina? Aiming to see movie-making in action? Here’s where to find it all in the Golden State.

For more than a century, California has been the world’s entertainment hotspot, ever since legendary director Cecil B. DeMille shot Hollywood’s first major motion picture in 1913. Studios soon followed, establishing headquarters here, with filmmakers traveling statewide to take advantage of California’s diverse landscapes—perfect for everything from cowboys and Indians to classic thrillers. Now, a century later, the romance and glamour of Tinsel Town is as much a part of Southern California’s allure as its fabled beaches. And other parts of the state sparkle with star power. Here’s where to sample the cinematic magic statewide.

1. Get inside the studios.
It’s surprisingly easy to get a glimpse of L.A.’s thriving movie and TV industry. Major Hollywood studios are open to the public for tours, the biggest and splashiest being Universal Studios Hollywood, part theme park, part back lot. The studio’s special VIP Experience is a must for movie and TV buffs, with exclusive visits to prop rooms and sets. Nearby, Warner Brothers Studios offers a Deluxe Tour with lunch in the studio commissary—a great place to spot stars. Paramount Pictures hosts two tours, including a four-hour option ideal for serious film fans that covers 100 years of moviemaking. Tours at Sony Pictures in Culver City explore the legendary MGM lot, where films like The Wizard of Oz and Spider-Man were filmed.

 2. Hang out in movie-making ‘hoods.
While people use “Hollywood” as shorthand for the movie industry, Northern California is also home to a thriving film community, especially for digital filmmaking. Pixar Animation Studios, located in the San Francisco Bay Area city of Emeryville and co-founded by the late Steve Jobs, is the wellspring of such digital masterpieces as Toy Story, Monsters, Inc., and Finding Nemo. Star Wars director George Lucas has long-been based in the area, and his Letterman Digital Arts Center is a buzzing hub of the city’s Presidio, a former military base. Neither of these movie-making meccas is open to the public; though nearby eateries often attract people in the industry. Eavesdrop on conversations at Rudy’s Can’t Fail Cafe in Emeryville or at the Presidio Supper Club in San Francisco and you might overhear details of a movie in the making.

3. Follow in their footsteps.
Want to get really close to the stars? It’s easy in Hollywood. Start along Hollywood Boulevard, where the sidewalk is inset with terrazzo and brass stars honouring legends of film, TV, music, and theater along the Hollywood Walk of Fame®. Grauman’s Chinese Theatre beckons with its fabled cement forecourt, where you can bend down and touch the hand- and footprints of everyone from John Wayne to Johnny Depp. Be sure to see how tiny Marilyn Monroe’s hands were—and poke your pinky into the imprint left by her stiletto heels.

Next to Grauman’s, a different close-up awaits at Madame Tussauds Hollywood, where you can pose next to incredibly realistic wax figures of stars like Jennifer Aniston and Julia Roberts. Nearby, you'll find the Kodak Theatre, home to the annual Academy Awards show.

For a rolling tour of the region—including movie-star hangouts and homes—take a guided trip with Star Line Tours.

4. Go on location.
Less than an hour’s drive from Hollywood is Malibu Creek State Park, once home to a movie ranch that served as an international location: Korea in the movie and TV series MASH, Wales in 1941’s How Green Was My Valley, and even outer space in the original Planet of the Apes. In the nearby Santa Monica Mountains, Paramount Ranch swung open its barn doors to moviemaking in 1927. Today, you can visit Western sets used for the long-running series, Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, starring Jane Seymour.

Moviemakers have turned to locations far from L.A., too. Director Billy Wilder used the elegant Hotel del Coronado near San Diego for the Marilyn Monroe classic, 1959’s Some Like it Hot (look for memorabilia in the handsome lobby). Santa Barbara County has been a favourite too, with locations chosen for films including The Graduate, Seabiscuit, and Sideways. Download self-guided tour itineraries, including an 18-stop Sideways ramble, at santabarbaraca.com.

Heading north, discover the land that Alfred Hitchcock loved to shoot. The iconic director filmed scenes for 1958’s Vertigo at San Francisco’s Mission Dolores and Fort Point beneath the Golden Gate Bridge. He also travelled north to the fishing village of Bodega Bay in Sonoma County for the creepy setting of 1963’s The Birds (some scenes were shot at still-popular The Tides Wharf Restaurant). Also just north of San Francisco, spooky scenes from the 2011 version of Planet of the Apes were shot in Marin County’ Muir Woods National Monument. For an overview of local film locations, consider the three-hour San Francisco Movie Tour.

5. Go where stars go.
From red-hot A-list mega-stars to one-hit wonders, the chances of spotting celebs goes way up in the place where they work, live, and play: Los Angeles. The ritzy shops lining ultra-luxe Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills attract stars with money to burn; visit midweek unless you want to see more gawkers than celebs. With trendy The Ivy Restaurant and edgy boutiques, nearby Robertson Boulevard is another hotspot. And celebs all need their java: The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf at Sunset Boulevard and Holloway Drive is a fabled haunt.

Stars also love the beach—after all, they can afford the houses. Intimate Malibu Country Mart is like a neighbourhood shopping centre for the gilded set. In sun-splashed Santa Monica, stars adore such oceanfront hotels as Shutters on the Beach and Casa del Mar. Peruse Montana Avenue’s cafes and boutiques, too—fun even if you’re not on the star prowl.

Another tip: head to Staples Center when basketball’s L.A. Lakers are in town. Scan the crowds (bring binoculars—why not?) for stars, including courtside regulars Jack Nicholson and Leonardo DiCaprio.

6. Attend film and TV events.
Another great way to up your odds of seeing celebs is hanging out along red carpets heading into film festivals, award shows, and tapings. January’s Palm Springs International Film Festival features screenings of Oscar contenders, with stars like Charlize Theron and Anne Hathaway blowing kisses to the crowd. The celebrated Santa Barbara International Film Festival shows world and U.S. premieres; past honourees have included Annette Bening and Angelina Jolie.

Every March in Beverly Hills, Paley Center for Media conducts PaleyFest - a series of screenings and panels with casts of such TV shows as Glee, Mad Men, and The Office. Other Paley Center events have included star appearances (think Jeff Bridges) and show previews.

Television shows of all kinds invite live audiences to filming’s; peak season is August through March. Seating is limited but tickets are free, and tapings let you see Hollywood in action and favourite stars behind the scenes. For sources, check websites for specific shows, including Ellen and Jimmy Kimmel Live.

Another inside tip: During awards shows, producers loath empty seats on camera. So, when stars leave their seats to present or perform—or if they’re just plain late—“seat fillers” slip into and out of the stars’ seats on cue. And guess what? They’re plain folks just like us. If you’re in town during the Screen Actors Guild or other awards show, give it a shot by getting on lists at seatfillers.com.

 

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