Monday, August 31, 2009

Get Your Culture On in San Francisco

September and October are two of the best months weather-wise in San Francisco. So take full advantage of the spectacular weather to get your culture on with some of the following free events:

Every year since 1971, the renowned San Francisco Opera has put on Opera in the Park, a free concert held in Golden Gate Park. This year's concert event will be held on Sunday, September 13 at 1:30 pm in Sharon Meadow. Bring your blanket and a picnic to enjoy the sounds of the fall season stars and the San Francisco Opera Orchestra. The Opera in the Park concert is presented by the San Fransisco Chronicle and is usually attended by more than 30,000 people.

The San Francisco Shakespeare Company will be performing at the Presidio's Main Post Parade Ground Lawn weekends (and Labor Day) through September 20. This year they are performing Comedy of Errors, so keep your blanket and picnic basket handy to take advantage of one of these free performances. Sunday, September 13 is Family Day, with activities for kids starting at 1:00 pm.

The San Francisco Jazz Summerfest presents free concerts over four months across the Bay Area. The September and October concerts will be presented at Noon on Wednesdays at Levi's Plaza off the Embarcadero. These free concerts feature many of the Bay Area’s most talented musicians.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Getting the Travel Itch in a Down Economy

So, the economy's down and maybe your pocket book is too...but you have the urge to travel. What to do? Staycation, you say? Or, full on vacation? If you're a California resident, then a staycation offers you lots of opportunities to explore the many aspects of your home state. If you don't live in California, but can swing a trip there by plane, train, bus, or automobile...then your options for exploration are endless. California offers it all with something to excite and intrigue every taste or interest. If money's too tight to mention, don't despair...there are bargains to be had throughout the state.

If you are in California and want to do some sightseeing, get in your car or hoof it to some of the local attractions for some memorable photo ops; this is one of the cheapest ways of getting to do things. It doesn't cost anything to take a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge, but it does cost to drive over it (it's free if you walk). It's not going to cost you to visit Pier 39 in San Francisco (especially if you're already there); however, if you have to drive, it will cost you to park (not cheap, but not the most expensive city parking). Pier 39 offers some great views of the city and the bay...Coit Tower, Alcatraz, the Golden Gate can see them all from Pier 39.

Admission fees to places of interest can add up, so be selective with where you spend your money. I've done the "drive by" photo op many times, especially if I don't feel it's worth it to spend the admission fee. A lot of museums and other places of interest will offer a free day or special discounts. Check out materials available from the local tourist bureaus, if you're a AAA member then see what discounts may be offered to members. There are many ways to have a fun time and see some great places without spending a lot of money. If you belong to a museum in your home town, check to see if any museums at your destination offer reciprocal discounts.

Golden Gate Park, including the Strybing Arboretum & Botanical Gardens. Golden Gate Park is huge at more than 1,000 acres. It is free to visit and there are frequently many free community events going on in the park. While there are attractions in the park that do cost to visit, the San Francisco Botanical Gardens is one of the free ones. The gardens consist of 55 acres of land within the park. You will find more than 7,500 varieties of flora from around the world. There are many paths to walk and many benches to sit on and contemplate the world or simply the beauty around you. There are free, daily docent-led tours of the botanical gardens and even a free children's story time twice a month (every 1st and 3rd Sunday).

Also located within the confines of Golden Gate Park is the California Academy of Sciences which offers free admission the third Wednesday of every month and some neighborhood-specific promotions sorted by ZIP code on certain weekends. The Academy consists of an aquarium, a planetarium, natural history museum, and a tropical rain forest bio-dome.

The deYoung Museum is located in Golden Gate Park adjacent to the California Academy of Sciences. The first Tuesday of each month is free admission (excluding special exhibits and events.) However, if you purchase admission to the deYoung, you get free same-day admission to the Legion of Honor (or vice versa.) The deYoung features collections of American art from the 17th through the 20th centuries, and art of the native Americas, Africa, and the Pacific. The Legion of Honor, located in Lincoln Park near 34th Avenue and Clement Street, overlooks the Golden Gate Bridge. The Legion of Honor also offers free admission the first Tuesday of each month. The Legion houses a collection of 4,000 years of ancient and European art, all displayed in a beautiful Beaux-Arts building.

The Exploratorium is a kid-friendly interactive museum located within San Francisco's Palace of Fine Arts. The musem--less of a museum and more of an interactive science exhibit-- is dedicated to art, science and human perception through the use of hands-on displays. The Exploratorium offers free admission the first Wednesday of each month.

If the free museum days don't fit into your vacation schedule, you can purchase a San Francisco City Pass, which for $59 ($39 for kids) offers you discounted admission to five area attractions: California Academy of Sciences, a Blue & Gold Fleet bay cruise, Aquarium of the Bay, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Exploratorium or the de Young/Legion of Honor. You also receiv a 7-day Muni/Cable Car passport providing unlimited transportation on Muni cable cars, street cars, and buses for seven consecutive days.

For deals and specials in the Monterey area, check out the See Monterey deals page. There is more information about hotel specials, restaurant deals, and attraction offers in the Monterey Bay area including Monterey, Salinas, Carmel, Pacific Grove, and Big Sur.

One of the best free things to do in Monterey is just hang out and check out the marine life on the bay. Watching the otters, seals, and sea lions cavort in the surf is highly entertaining and doesn't cost a thing. There are also plenty of bike/walking paths to take advantage of (and it is free to do so.) Along the bike path in Monterey, just off of Cannery Row, are some historic buildings that you can view inside to see how those in the fishing industry lived.

Nearby, the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History offers free admission all of the time. This is a small museum that features permanent exhibits which focus on the native flora, fauna, and aboriginal populations of Monterey County. The museum also frequently features special temporary exhibits throughout the year. Also part of the museum is Point Pinos Lighthouse, the oldest continuously operating lighthouse on the West Coast. Tours are free (although a donation is suggested) and offered Thursdays through Mondays, reservations required.

Sunny Santa Cruz located on Monterey Bay is home to the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum which covers over 100 years of surfing history as related to Santa Cruz. The museum offers free admission. Also located in Santa Cruz is the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History which is not free, but the admission is only
$2.50 for adults, $1.50 for seniors, and free for kids under 18. You can find lodging specials on the Santa Cruz County Conference and Visitors Council website. It doesn't cost a thing to visit the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, rides and activities aren't free, but the amusement park offers ride passes. The Boardwalk is home to two National Historic Landmarks (the 1911 Looff Carousel and the 1924 Giant Dipper) and is also a State Historic Landmark.

California State Parks offer a budget-friendly option for vacationing, with many of them offering camping options. For those that don't have camping options, they may offer many sightseeing and outdoors activity options (such as hiking, biking, boating, fishing, swimming, diving, and more.)

So, if money woes have you down, don't despair. You can still have a great vacation in California. Take advantage of free admissions and discount offers. Be creative in the places that you go and do your research to make sure you're getting the best deals around. Just remember, it's not how much money you spend, but how much fun you have,

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

More Otters! Sea Otter Awareness Week

Sea Otter Awareness Week is September 27- October 3. Defenders of Wildlife organizes and promotes Sea Otter Awareness Week every year to educate people about the importance of sea otters in the marine ecosystem (sea otters are considered a "keystone" species*) and about various research and conservation programs. There are a variety of otter related events happening throughout the country with the most sea otter related events occurring throughout California. For more information about the various events going on, check out the Defenders of Wildlife website.

One of the special events going on in honor of Sea Otter Awareness week is a sea otter arts exhibit being sponsored by The Otter Project. There is a special opening night wine reception on Friday, September 25. The exhibit runs until October 24th at the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History. The Otter Project is currently accepting submissions of otter-themed artwork for the exhibit until September 18. For more information on submitting artwork or attending the event, visit their Facebook fan page. The Otter Project is looking for artwork that is "focused on or inspired by sea otters, the ecosystems they inhabit, the near-shore coastal ocean, or issues that affect sea otters such as pollution, conservation management, species interactions, etc."

*From the Defenders of Wildlife website: In the marine ecosystem, sea otters are considered "keystone species," meaning that their presence or absence has a significant impact on other marine species and marine ecosystems. Sea otters help sustain vital kelp forests by feeding on the shellfish and other plant-eating species that would otherwise consume kelp forests. Kelp forests, in turn, serve as important nursery grounds for many types of fin fishes.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Otter Days at Monterey Bay Aquarium

Visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium the weekend of September 12-13 to celebrate Otter Days. Otter Days includes special programs, crafts, face painting and otter-related prizes. There is also a chance to win behind-the-scenes tours of the sea otter exhibit.

During Otter Days you will be able to learn more about efforts to save the endangered southern sea otter population from the Aquarium's Sea Otter Research and Conservation program and staff of Defenders of Wildlife.

The Otter Days celebration will also be the last opportunity to see the African spotted-neck otters and the Asian small-clawed otters before the Wild About Otters special exhibit closes. The exhibit has been open for the last couple of years and is a fantastic exhibit. The otters on display are very playful, especially the Asian small-clawed otters and fascinating to watch. The exhibit contains several interactive exhibits and is especially geared towards children.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Help the DFG in Theft of Sea Otter Radio Receiver

Olive the Oiled Otter

The Department of Fish and Game is seeking information regarding the recent theft of a sea otter radio receiver. The device was used to track information about "Olive the Oiled Otter" who was rescued and rehabilitated earlier this year prior to being released into Monterey Bay in April.

According to the DFG website the receiver looks like a small silver metal box with dials and gauges, and was in a brown case when it was taken. It weighs about four pounds. Because of its specific nature, it cannot be used for commercial or private purposes.

Anyone with information about the theft or whereabouts of the receiver is asked to call 1-888-DFG-Caltip (1-888-334-2258). Callers may remain anonymous. For more information about Olive, please visit her Facebook page.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

It's That Time of Year?

California Dreaming: Monterey Bay.

Well, it's approaching the middle of August, generally the time I start planning my late October vacation. I am not sure right now if I will be going on vacation before the end of the year, or even if I will be going to California...but I certainly hope so. Right now airfares are fairly reasonable and there's still plenty of things I'd like to see and do...and blog about, of course.

While I love visiting California, I really just love travel in genera. I love going to new places or even familiar places I haven't been for a while. Since I've been traveling to California for the last several years, I haven't traveled elsewhere. There's a ton of other places I'd love to be able to go...if I could get all the time off from work I needed and if my pocketbook were filled with a never ending supply of money. Since that's not the case, I have to be careful using the vacation time I have and make sure that I spend my travel dollars wisely. Regardless of what decisions I make about my travel plans, I will continue to blog about California travel locations and opportunities.

So, here's to hoping I will be making some travel plans very soon.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Happy Belated Blogiversary

Well, I missed California Traveler blog has passed its first anniversary. So, now to belatedly celebrate the happy event of being a blogger for one year. I may not have posted as much as I would have liked, but at least I have stuck with it. This is not my first blog, but it is the first one that I have kept my postings up on. I don't even remember my first died a sad, slow death as I posted once or twice and then forgot all about it. I also started another blog last year, but I have been a bad blogger and not posted to that one since the first month or so.

So, I am very happy to be marking my first blogiversary...even if it is a belated one (I made my first post in July of last year.) I promise to continue this blog...I really like it. I like the subject matter I have chosen and love posting my pictures. I hope those of you who check my blog out--whether it be one time or frequently--enjoy reading my posts and looking at my pictures. Most of all, however, I hope you take away something useful.

In the year ahead I hope to be able to post more often and provide more useful information. I would love to be able to travel to California more frequently...believe me. I promise that I will travel there as much as I can and will continue to post about my travels. When I am not traveling, I will try to post other information about events and places and maybe things I plan to see or do on a future trip.

I hope you enjoy California Traveler as much as I do. Let me know if you do. And, Happy Blogiversary to me!