California offers adventures for the mature traveller

California offers exceptional learning and travel adventures for adults 55 years and older. Most travel options suit any budget, personal interest and level of activity. Some of the Golden State’s destinations also offer discounts and special services designed to get seniors exploring.

“Whether traveling solo or with the grandchildren, California offers a host of vacations for the mature traveler and their extended families,” said Executive Director Caroline Beteta of the California Travel and Tourism Commission (CTTC).

Heading northeast from Redding, located in the Shasta Cascade Region, mature visitors will find the incredible caves of Lava Beds National Monument in Tulelake. Over the last half-million years, volcanic eruptions created a rugged landscape punctuated by cinder cones, lava flows, spatter cones, lava tube caves and pit craters. These lava tube caves, of which there are more than 500 in the Monument, are a favorite underground destination for adventurous visitors to explore. In Plumas County, there’s trout-filled streams for fishing seniors, as well as a variety of golf courses, including Plumas Pin Golf Resort, a 1980 Homer Flint designed championship 18-hole course, in Graeagle.

In the San Francisco Bay Area Region, the Pescadero Marsh Natural Preserve, located in San Mateo County, is a birdwatcher’s paradise. More than 230 species of birds have been recorded at this 500-acre habitat along with a wide variety of mammals, amphibians and plants. The 2,100-acre Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve is also rich in bird life and is a major migratory stopover on the Pacific Flyway. The Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, also located along the Pacific Flyway, spans 30,000 acres and consists of open bays, salt ponds, salt marshes, mudflats, upland and vernal pool habitats and hosts more than 280 species of birds each year. Each fall, Watsonville is home to the Monterey Bay Birding Festival where experts lead guided walks, field trips, and provide presentations and lectures. Guided year-round bird walks, less than one mile, are conducted every Sunday at the Wetlands of Watsonville.

Mature visitors to the Orange County Region enjoy a look back into ancient Egypt at the “Mummies: Death and the Afterlife in Ancient Egypt . . . Treasures from the British Museum” exhibit at Bowers Museum of Cultural Art in Santa Ana. Some seniors choose to take part in a Living History Day at the Mission San Juan Capistrano in San Juan Capistrano where volunteers dress in period costumes and share a piece of history through stories, demonstrations and crafts. In Yorba Linda, the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace offers tours of where the president was born and raised, including views of the 1,300 rose bushes in the White-House styled gardens. For the culinary apt senior, Laguna Culinary Arts offers a variety of wine tastings, wine pairing and cooking classes for all ages. At Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, seniors, ages 62 and older, get in for the kids’ price of $14.95. Many relive old memories and create new ones with the more than 165 rides, shows and attractions.

Tiptoe through the tulips (and lilies, roses and magnolias) in Monterey County’s verdant gardens, part of the Central Coast Region. Flowers, foundations and abalone shells line the garden paths of historic adobes, such as Cooper-Molera, Pacific House and Casa Soberanes. The Monterey Museum of Art La Mirada features a rose garden with peeks of the bay. Visitors can also take a guided pontoon boat tour on the 1,400 acres of the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve in Moss Landing, home to sea otters, harbor seals, tree frogs, 80 species of fish, and other waterfowl and mammals. Carmel, with its old-world charm and seaside location, is a popular destination for seniors celebrating anniversaries. The area features more than 200 specialty shops. The Cheshire Cat Inn in Santa Barbara offers 50 percent off regular room rates for seniors Sunday through Thursday. In Oxnard, bird lovers will enjoy a bevy of seabirds on Anacapa Island, including the largest brown pelican rookery in the United States.

In “Historic Hangtown” Placerville, part of the Gold Country Region, many mature travelers visit nearby Marshall Gold Discovery State Park and Apple Hill. The city’s Albert Shafsky House Bed and Breakfast Inn offers a $19.02 discount for seniors as 1902 was the year that Shafsky built his Queen Anne Victorian. In Amador City, the Historic Mine House Inn offers 50 percent off the second night’s lodging for arrivals on Sunday through Wednesday. Nearby activities include wine tastings at the more than 30 wineries and an underground gold mine tour just one mile away. In the midst of the Sacramento metropolitan area lies one of the most beautiful paved bike paths in Northern California. The American River Bike Trail offers 32 miles of parkway trail, stretching from downtown Sacramento to Folsom Dam, a pleasant ride for cyclists of all abilities.

Senior travelers can experience a timeless artifact of naval history docked at the San Diego Bay, part of the San Diego County Region. The USS Midway is considered the nation’s longest-serving aircraft carrier and was commissioned in 1945 as the largest ship in the world. It was homeported in Japan that same year. Visitors can explore the flight deck, hangar deck, berthing spaces, 35 exhibits and 15 restored aircrafts. Travelers can also indulge in the county’s cultural offerings with only one stop. Known as the largest cultural complex west of the Mississippi and the largest, urban cultural park in the nation, San Diego’s Balboa Park offers 85 cultural attractions, including 15 museums, the Tony Award-winning Old Globe Theatre and the San Diego Zoo. Seaport Village in San Diego is a landmark for waterfront shopping and dining. There is a historical carousel for children and live weekend entertainment.

In the Deserts Region, the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway in Palm Springs offers a scenic journey up the Chino Canyon. The 10-minute, 2.5-mile ride begins at the Valley Station at an elevation of 2,642 feet and ends at the Mountain Station at 8,516 feet. There visitors can enter Mount San Jacinto State Park and Wilderness Area. Camping and guided nature walks are available in the summer months while cross-country skiing and showshoeing is available in the winter. Many seniors make the Desert Hills Premium Outlets in Cabazon, located 20 minutes west of Palm Springs, part of their vacation. Shoppers can choose from high-end retailers, including Anne Klein, Barneys New York Outlet, Brooks Brothers Factory Store, Kenneth Cole Shoes, Coach and more.

Tahoe Adventure Company in Tahoe City, part of the High Sierra Region, offers professionally guided, fully outfitted educational adventure trips in the Lake Tahoe area. All trips include an extensive natural and human history component custom fitted to meet group traveler needs. Activities include kayaking, mountain biking, rock climbing, winter and snowshoe trekking. Many seniors take to the Tahoe Rim Trail, a loop path that runs along the mountains surrounding Lake Tahoe. Those that hike the entire trail, whether in one backpacking adventure or over a series of day hikes, become part of the Tahoe Rim Trail’s prestigious 165-Mile Club. In the summer, mature visitors make up the association’s trail crews and work with leaders to construct and maintain the trail. No experience is necessary. In Arnold, the Arnold Black Bear Inn provides an excellent base of operations to enjoy Bear Valley Ski Resort and Bear Valley Cross County, Calaveras Big Trees State Park, as well as nearby golf courses, hiking trails, antique stores and live theater.

Idyllwild, part of the Inland Empire Region, was named one of the 18 great towns of Southern California and one of the 100 best small art towns in America. Visiting seniors will find a rural mountain atmosphere, small town charm and engaging activities. Popular pastimes include hiking the hundreds of nearby trails, fishing and watching wildlife in San Bernardino National Forest. Located within a short distance is the Temecula Valley Wine Country. Many stay at the Strawberry Inn, a one-acre property designated by the National Wildlife Federation as an official Backyard Wildlife Habitat. In Temecula, the International Gourd Art Festival is a hit with families of all ages and is scheduled for June 24-25. There’s also the Vine 2 Wine Celebration August 5, which features a vineyard tour, tasting and opportunity to meet with the growers.

In the North Coast Region, the Sonoma Coast is a beautiful, secluded area where mature guests enjoy bird watching and hiking. The Sonoma Coast Villa and Spa in Bodega Bay offers lodgers a third night free with a two-night stay through March 2006. Further north in Arcata, visitors enjoy the Arcata Bay Oyster Festival each summer where local restaurateurs, executive chefs and caterers show off their culinary skills by preparing oysters in every imaginable way. There’s also the Blues on the Bay, which is held each July at the Humboldt Bay Waterfront Park in Eureka. This two-day festival features the world’s premier blues musicians on two stages. In Bodega Bay, the Links at Bodega Harbour, an 18-hole course with ocean views, is annually rated as one of California’s top ten courses and a must for golfing seniors.

Over one billion dollars has been put into the revitalization of Hollywood, part of the Los Angeles County Region, and mature travelers are taking notice. The Hollywood Museum in the historic Max Factor Building has been refurbished while paying homage to the glamour that has made Hollywood famous. Many seniors also enjoy the area’s premier dining, including the Fabiolus Cafe. There are also unique tours at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, which was founded in 1899 and is the resting place of many celebrities, such as Douglas Fairbanks Senior and Rudolph Valentino.

Agriculture is not the Central Valley Region‘s only attraction. This fertile land is bounded by the coastal mountain range to the west and the slope of the Sierra Nevada to the east. Active seniors enjoy rafting and houseboating on the many number of rivers and waterways from the Kern to the Stanislaus to the Delta. In Stockton, the Weber Point Events Center boasts an interactive water fountain, amphitheatre, waterfront promenade and is home to a variety of festivals and concerts throughout the year. Nearby Oak Park Tennis Complex offers more than 60 tennis and game courts (many are night-lighted).

The CTTC is a non-profit organization with a mission to develop and maintain marketing programs – in partnership with the state’s travel industry – that keep California top-of-mind as a premier travel destination. California is currently the number one travel destination in the country. According to the CTTC, travel and tourism expenditures total $82.5 billion annually in California, support jobs for nearly 900,000 Californians and generate $5.2 billion in state and local tax revenues. For more information about the CTTC and for a free California vacation packet, go to or call 800-862-2543 (domestic) or 916-444-4429 (international).